Skip to Main Content
Forensic timber identification: It's time to integrate disciplines to combat illegal loggingAuthor(s): Eleanor E. Dormontt; Markus Boner; Birgit Braun; Gerhard Breulmann; Bernd Degen; Edgard Espinoza; Shelley Gardner; Phil Guillery; John C. Hermanson; Gerald Koch; Soon Leong Lee; Milton Kanashiro; Anto Rimbawanto; Darren Thomas; Alex C. Wiedenhoeft; Yafang Yin; Johannes Zahnen; Andrew J. Lowe
Source: Biological Conservation
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Forest Products Laboratory
Download Publication (296.0 KB)
DescriptionThe prosecution of illegal logging crimes is hampered by a lack of available forensic timber identification tools, both for screening of suspectmaterial and definitive identification of illegally sourcedwood. Reputable timber traders are also struggling to police their own supply chains and comply with the growing requirement for due diligence with respect to timber origins and legality. A range of scientific methods have been developed independently with the potential to provide the required identification information, but little attention has been given to how these tools can be applied synergistically to support the legal timber trade. Here we review the use of visual identification methods (wood anatomy, dendrochronology), chemical methods (mass spectrometry, near infrared spectroscopy, stable isotopes, radio-carbon), and geneticmethods (DNAbarcoding, population genetics/phylogeography,DNA fingerprinting) each with potential application to forensic timber identification.We further highlight where future research and development are required to identify illegal logging crimes using these methods and suggest ways in which multiple methods can be used together to answer specific identification questions. We argue that a new integrated field of forensic timber identification should be a global investment priority, for which the ongoing collection, curation and taxonomic study of appropriate reference material is a critical part. Consideration of the specific legal requirements for method development and the application of identification methodologies to criminal evidence are also imperative to achieve robust scientific support for illegal logging crime prosecutions and prevention.
- We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
- This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.
CitationDormontt, Eleanor E.; Boner, Markus; Braun, Birgit; Breulmann, Gerhard; Degen, Bernd; Espinoza, Edgard; Gardner, Shelley; Guillery, Phil; Hermanson, John C.; Koch, Gerald; Lee, Soon Leong; Kanashiro, Milton; Rimbawanto, Anto; Thomas, Darren; Wiedenhoeft, Alex C.; Yin, Yafang; Zahnen, Johannes; Lowe, Andrew J. 2015. Forensic timber identification: It's time to integrate disciplines to combat illegal logging. Biological Conservation. 191: 790-798.
KeywordsWood anatomy, Mass spectrometry, Near infrared spectroscopy, Stable isotopes, Radiocarbon, DNA
- Opportunities for improved transparency in the timber trade through scientific verification
- Electronic-nose applications in forensic science and for analysis of volatile biomarkers in the human breath
- Field identification manual for Ghanaian timbers
XML: View XML