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5.16.03 - Multidisciplinary identification of wood


Soon Leong Lee, Malaysia


Lichao Jiao, China

Cady Lancaster, United States

About Unit

Accurate wood species identification and tracking of geographic origins along the chain-of-custody are imperative for the conservation and sustainable use of wood resources. To date, various wood identification methods based on visual, chemical and genetic approaches, among others, are available to determine the taxonomic, geographic and individual sources of wood materials. All these methods rely on extensive reference databases containing data derived from reference materials. Apart from wood anatomy, radiocarbon, chemistry and genetics, most disciplines have so far developed very limited databases, which in turn limits the respective scope of application.

In the past, the development of wood identification tools lacks concerted interdisciplinary effort, often with a sense of competition between proponents of the various methodologies, and a pervading reluctance to accept the validity and future potential of alternative approaches. Hence, this unit aims to promote research cooperation among wood anatomists, geneticists, chemists and relevant scientists worldwide, and to develop innovative and accurate wood identification tools encompassing multidisciplinary approaches, based on wood structure, genetic and chemical methods, and artificial intelligence, with the goal of supporting conservation and sustainable use of wood resources.

State of Knowledge

Illegal logging and over-exploitation are the main causes of deforestation in natural forests and pose a significant threat to the sustainability of forest ecosystems.

In recent years, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has been accelerating the extension of its control and management to tree species, especially tropical species. From the initial 18 tree species listed in the CITES appendices in 1975, there are more than 500 tree species listed in the CITES Appendices. This indicates that the conservation and sustainable utilization of trees has received significant attention from the international community. One of the most challenging issues in the implementation of CITES is the definitive identification of specimens found in trade, which is required to demonstrate whether the activity is legal or illegal.

In this context, the significance of the development of wood identification technique is self-evident. The most classic and traditional identification method relies on anatomical features, either macroscopic or microscopic, could generally identify wood at the genus level, or to a specific classification under genus. However, it rarely can provide a higher discrimination resolution for tracking the geographic origin of timber or identifying wood at the species/individual level.

Multidisciplinary identification, including wood anatomy, DNA barcoding, DNA profiling, mass spectrometry, near-infrared spectroscopy, stable isotopes, radiocarbon and computer vision might provide a powerful and applicable tool for wood identification and traceability to promote legal logging and timber trade custody, which is of great significance for global biodiversity conservation and the sustainable use of wood resources.