Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's Happening to the Cork Tree?

 Nobody is quite sure what's happening to the cork tree, only about eight hundred of them are left in the wild, and nearly fourteen thousand in captivity.This has leading scientists concerned about the effect it will have on the bulletin board industry. Without this precious spongy material, teachers, moms, and organized children would need to rely on an artificial surface to pin their memos. One such replacement is a rubber like material, much like what the wine industry uses for their bungs. Since wine bottles use rubber bungs and screw caps exclusively now, they are obviously not the source of the cork shortage. The rubber bulletin board is very popular as a replacement, and an independent study showed that when replaced with the artificial material, people just stopped using pins and paper memos altogether, choosing refrigerator magnets and dry erase boards to relay messages. "I like dry erase boards better anyway, cork boards always dry out and crumble," a leading mom and amateur archeologist from Los Angeles, CA. says.

As to the disappearance of the cork tree, biologists have several theories: the wild tit may be using the tree as soft bedding once chewed and spat out; it could be a possible food source for apes and beetles; as well as a biological strain of Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome that affects plant life and some species of stone and metal, particularly zinc alloys and many noble gases. None of this is confirmed, just pure speculation and conjecture.  One scientist agreed to speak with us, he wasn't the first choice but we didn't have much to choose from.

"One of the problems is that not a single scientist has conducted any field research on the subject. It's all been word of mouth and rumors," says leading entomologist Michael Kohne of the Catholic Science Institute in Cork, Ireland. "Nobody really has time. It's not that big of a deal," says another source close to the cork industry. We speculate that some cork experts agree, and some Disagree.

Another concern is the durability of the tree itself, cork is very squishy and an entire tree made out of it tends to flop over and rot easily. The tree is also very finicky about water; half the year it needs at least 92 gallons of liquid H20 a day to keep it tumescent, and the other half it requires a great deal of snow and ice buildup that hardens around the trunk to keep it standing. The water isn't always available in those forms or quantities. So the tree will probably disappear within the next year or two according to our best guess.

The global cork industry is tremendously concerned about the depletion of the tree, but says it's production line won't skip a beat because there are plenty of alternatives. Walt Knutson, the CEO of claims that they weren't going to be using it much longer anyway, and their new website name was slated to change to in 2013.

A shame. Cork is a cool looking tree, but it seems to be of very little use to modern day industry.


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