New timber tracking tools to stop illegal loggingA new strategy aimed at monitoring the supply chain of timber products using genetic and stable isotope markers will play a vital role in international efforts to combat illegal logging, say scientists, policy analysts and forestry experts who gathered at a recent workshop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to lay the groundwork for the project.
The Global Timber Tracking Network (GTTN), coordinated by Bioversity International as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry , is leading efforts to promote the use of innovative control tools based on the application of DNA and stable isotope research to identify timber species and trace their origins.
“Genetic data provides a level of evidence that you can’t contest. Because the DNA is in every cell of wood, you can’t falsify that data,” said Andrew Lowe, professor of plant conservation biology at the University of Adelaide in Australia. “The database we’re setting up will serve as an important resource for providing checks on the forestry industry.”
The Global Timber Tracking Network aims to create a global database featuring genetic and stable isotope markers for commonly traded timber species, a landmark tool designed to reinforce certification standards and legislation and to complement existing paper-based documentation that can be easily falsified.
Using DNA and stable isotope markers to track the supply chain of timber products will provide a practical mechanism for producer and consumer countries alike to enforce regulations to curb illegal logging. The GTTN database will allow importers to verify the precise species and origin of wood and wood products and provide tangible proof that the products were genuinely derived from a sustainably managed forest or other legally harvested timber.
The GTTN database will be used to test whether the data generated by analyses of wood samples match the stated species and origin on product labels. Creating the database will require integrating data generated by different research techniques and collected by scientists working in various locations around the world. Global standards must be established for sampling and for lab analysis of genetic and stable isotope data in order to ensure the techniques used to gather and analyse the data are repeatable and verifiable.
“Reaching agreement on standards may be the most difficult aspect of making the timber tracking system operational,” said Loo. More >>
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