5.16.00 - Wood identification



Highlight of 5.16.00 in Report of IUFRO all-Division 5 Conference 2023 in Cairns, Australia

Please find the full report via: https://www.iufro.org/science/divisions/division-5/50000/activities/

IUFRO all-Division 5 Conference 2023 in Cairns, Australia

Authors: Volker Haag, Roger Meder, Andrew Lowe, Victor Deklerck, Sangeeta Gupta, Yafang Yin, David J. Lee and Pekka Saranpää 

Between 4th and 8th June 2023, the IUFRO all-Division 5 conference 2023 took place in Cairns (Australia) under the title "The Forest Treasure Chest - Delivering Outcomes for Everyone". The conference focused on improving sustainable trade in timber and forestry, adapting forests to climate change, and cooperation between regional forestry and indigenous communities. 

Highlight of 5.16.00 in the Report:  

Strengthening modern technologies to secure the international timber trade

To strengthen the sustainable timber industry, scientists continue to focus on methods for species and origin identification. IUFRO Division 5 officially established a new unit "5.16 wood identification" in September 2020, which consists of three working parties: wood collections and databases, wood anatomical identification and multidisciplinary identification of wood. IUFRO 5.16 contributes to academic exchanges and cooperation among global wood identification scientists in the field of collection and exchange of wood specimens, and development of wood identification methods (IUFRO 2023). Current developments and advances in the field of digital image processing/analysis and neural network modelling have opened new research perspectives and applications for wood anatomy and wood quality research. In the last decades, traditional wood anatomy has experienced a renaissance, gaining increasing importance in the field of wood identification. This is highly significant for the strict implementation of timber trade regulations and legal frameworks (CITES, EUTR/EUDR, FLEGT, etc.)14. Various teams worldwide are currently engaged in taking traditional wood anatomy into the digital age in new fields of application, mainly focusing on computer vision and deep learning methods. The first machine vision-based wood identification systems were primarily concerned with the macroscopic analysis of transverse sections of commercial timbers. During the development of these techniques, the resolution of the examined areas became higher and made observations at the microscopic level possible, yet so far limited to cross-sections11, 22, 10, 12, 15, 23. In a recent study, the authors address the use of high-resolution sub-µCt based volumetric images. The potential of µCT technology is currently being explored8,9 for a variety of applications6,7 and the extent to which three-dimensional representations can be used in the field of artificial intelligence is being investigated.

Whilst the recent developments in wood anatomy are very promising, the application of other scientific techniques to provide species29, geographic and even individual level identification (stable isotopes, genomics and elemental profiling) were also presented at the conference. Some recent work includes the development of stable isotope profiles to confirm the geographic origin of timber from the Amazonian rainforest and Europe26, the application of genomics to provide a species level identification tool to the taxonomically complex group of meranti from Borneo19 use of ancient DNA to confirm the species and region of origin of timbers used in the Forbidden City13, the development of GCxGC-TOFMS-based metabolomic profiling for forensic identification of mahogany and rosewood species4. All are promising techniques and provide a broad arsenal of rigorous scientific testing methods to verify the species and region of origin of timber to help detect and ultimately stop illegal logging.

There were also very promising developments to provide international reference data (IAWA - International Association of Wood Anatomists 2023) that can be accessed by verification authorities, scientists and industry. The development of networks of xylaria3 and progress towards digitizing wood collections1 were also presented. But perhaps one of the most exciting initiatives is the progress of World Forest ID2, which emerged from a consortium of partners which included the US Forest Service, World Resources Institute (WRI), Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). World Forest ID aims to provide a robust and authoritative set of global reference collections, reference data for multiple scientific methods (isotopes, genomics, metabolites and elemental profiling), and data analysis and interpretation tools18 that enable effective enforcement of timber trade regulations. As of April 2023, World Forest ID has collected over 23,000 wood samples (>9,000 trees, >60 countries and >350 species). 

The IUFRO Division 5 conference highlighted again that establishing collaborative networks and enabling knowledge transfers will be key to develop these scientific techniques and to maximize their impact upon implementation.

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Yafang Yin, China

About Unit

This IUFRO Research Group will contribute to academic exchanges and cooperation among global wood identification scientists in the field of collection and exchange of wood specimens, and development of wood identification methods. As an important part of the Division 5, it is significant to promote sustainable utilization of forest products and legal timber trade. This Unit of IUFRO will also play a key role to cooperate with IAWA on the research development of wood identification. Its goals are:

  1. Establishment of a global network of wood collections and wood properties databases to share relevant data and information for wood identification.
  2. Promotion of the research cooperation among wood anatomists and relevant scientists worldwide to develop innovative and accurate wood identification tools.
  3. Promotion of the conservation of tree species diversity, legal and sustainable trade in the timber industry chains.

State of Knowledge

Use of wood anatomy for identification has been well-established for more than 100 years, and its ability to separate to genus or species groups was, and is, adequate for most purposes. But today’s identification requirements are more extensive than before. Separation to species and determination of provenance, are now important for enforcement of legal logging. Therefore, new methods, i.e. DNA, computer vision, chemical fingerprint, stable isotope etc., are needed to supplement wood anatomy-based identifications, which are under development with varying degrees of success. The new Unit will strengthen exchanges and cooperation on identification methods among international wood identification experts through the organization of international academic conferences, evaluate the potentials of the new methods and suggest ways they can be used in tandem with wood anatomy to solve new problems.

Meanwhile, wood specimens are important foundation of wood identification research. It is of great significance to enhance the academic value of the wood collection to carry out global collection and exchange of wood specimens and achieve the sharing of specimen resources and information.