5.16.02 - Anatomical identification of wood


Michael Wiemann, United States


Emmanuel Ebanyenle, Ghana

Alexandre Gontijo, Brazil

Volker Haag, Germany

About Unit

The aim of the IUFRO Anatomical Identification of Wood  Working Party is to expand the use of wood anatomy to users of wood, to elucidate the methods used to measure and describe wood anatomy, and to clarify the ability and limitations of wood anatomy to identify wood. It includes research into the wood anatomical features of use in wood identification, and how these features can be used to identify the ever-increasing number of species that are entering the international market. With the greater use of plantation‑grown trees previous wood anatomical descriptions are sometimes inadequate, and previously undescribed species need to be included in anatomy databases. This initiative can be very important step to improve the information related to the taxonomical identity of wood species traded worldwide, and will be vital to combating the illegal logging that often takes advantage of knowledge gaps to proliferate.

State of Knowledge

Well-known commercial species have been described and their anatomical characteristics included in species descriptions and wood identification keys. Although anatomical identification is still the main tool for the taxonomic determination of woods, this technique is used in different situations, from Customs control to field inspection. However, the volumes of wood traded are enormous, while the number of specialists in the area is still insufficient. Further, the evaluation of internationally tested product groups shows that the requests for the identification of wooden products such as plywood, strandboard particleboard and fibreboard are increasing. The identification of these wood-based products requires the special expertise of wood anatomists.

Also, the timber resource is changing. More of a tree’s woody biomass is being used, the wood of second growth and plantation-grown trees of known species is increasingly entering the market, and previously unused species are now being exploited for their wood. On the other hand, species previously used are no longer available, either because of protected status or over-exploitation.