Most of the natural forests of the Iberian Peninsula had long since disappeared because of erosion and uncontrolled harvesting for firewood, timber, or the creation of pastureland. In the 1980s, about 7 million hectares, or 14 percent of the land in Spain, could be considered usable forest, although another 3.5 million hectares of scrub growth were often included in forestland statistics.
A reforestation program had been under way in Spain since 1940. The aims of the program included meeting market demand for forest products, controlling erosion, and providing seasonal employment in rural areas. Eucalyptus trees, Lombardy poplars, and a variety of conifers were emphasized because of their fast growth.
Lumber output was approximately 12.3 million cubic meters in 1986, compared with 11.8 million cubic meters in 1985. Output could conceivably triple if 5.8 million hectares of the best forestland, which accounted for 50 percent of the total woodlands area, were properly developed and managed. Existing forestation programs were inadequate, however. For example, in the 1975-84 period, the balance between reforestation and the loss of forestland as a result of fires favored the latter by about 148,000 hectares. A report issued by the Forest Progress Association reported that, by the year 2000, Spain's wood deficit could reach between 8.5 and 16.9 million cubic meters.
The value of Spain's forest products in 1985 was US$302 million. Pine trees grown in the north and the northwest as well as oak and beech trees grown in the Pyrenees accounted for most of the total. Commercial forestry products produced in Spain included cork, turpentine, and resins.
Spain was the world's second largest producer of cork after Portugal. The best quality of cork, used for bottle stoppers, was grown in Catalonia. More plentiful lower grades, which went into linoleum, insulating materials, and other industrial products, came primarily from Andalusia and Extremadura. Cork production was declining, after reaching a high in the 1970s of 97,000 tons per year; only 46,000 tons were produced in 1985, as the widening use of plastics and other cork substitutes reduced demand.
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