Tree DNA Used to Solve Timber Poaching Case

A recent analysis of tree DNA successfully helped solve a case of illegal timber harvesting in Missouri’s Mark Twain National Forest.

A United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service research geneticist was able to test the stump of an illegally harvested black walnut and a log found at a hardwood lumber mill to determine the chance the two tree segments shared the same DNA fingerprint.

The geneticist, Richard Cronn, and his lab in Oregon had compiled a DNA database of black walnut trees that helped the lab prove the samples were identical across 80 genetic markers and led to the conviction of the timber poacher.

KZRG News in Missouri reported this case marks the first time tree DNA was used to investigate a federal timber poaching case in the eastern United States.

The news station reported this case provides opportunities for future Forest Service investigations and black walnut theft. With growing data on the species’ DNA, investigators can match stumps of poached tree to cut logs, milled lumber, mill waste and potentially finished wood products.

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