Using genetic markers, Dutch researchers say they have discovered a more accurate way to pinpoint the geographic origin of an African wood species, information that could be helpful in the battle against illegal logging.
The method is accurate enough to differentiate between two concessions of timber that had originally been located just 14 kilometers apart, according to the study, published in Biological Conservation.
The small differentiable radius between two samples of tropical timber is a new breakthrough.
In a blind test, genetic specialists correctly identified the concessions of 12 samples of timber 92 percent of the time. “That’s a great score,” said the study’s lead author, Mart Vlam of the Forest Ecology and Forest Management Research Group at Wagenigen University.
Due to the often close proximity of designated logging areas and illegal logging areas, identifying the exact origin of tropical timber can be important for detecting illegal timber, a press release from the university stated.
Though the study has demonstrated the potential impact DNA analysis could have on the timber trade, more expansive research still needs to be conducted before the tests could be used in court, according to lead researcher Pieter Zuidema.
“We need to collect timber samples from a much larger area, and our analyses and labs will have to meet strict criteria,” Zuidema said.