Genetic properties help identify illegally traded tropical hardwood

Around 30-90 percent of all tropical hardwood is logged illegally. Checks on the origin of wood, however thorough, are not particularly effective because documentation may be fraudulent. Researchers from the University of Wageningen and Leicester have now developed a new method for identifying illegal timber.

Genetic markers can deliver reliable, accurate information on the origin of the African wood species Tali, according to a study that has just been published in the scientific journal Biological Conservation. This method is so accurate that even timber from two concessions just 14 km apart can be differentiated. This is essential, as concessions where logging is permitted are often in close proximity to those where it is not.

For the purposes of the study, several hundred timber samples were collected in five concessions in Cameroon and Congo-Brazzaville in collaboration with two logging companies. The team used these samples to create a reference-database.

This study demonstrates that genetic analysis has great potential for use in forensic testing of tropical hardwood