'Fingerprinting' trees to stop illegal logging

Mar 03, 2014 by Robyn Mills

The University of Adelaide will help step up the fight against illegal logging with a new two-year, DNA-fingerprinting project in Indonesia. A US$518,833 grant for the project was announced by the International Tropical Timber Organization today.

The University of Adelaide-led will develop DNA markers for important Indonesian species, allowing trees to be tracked from forest through to final product.

"Tropical rainforests play such an important role in Indonesian economic development and the ," says Professor Andrew Lowe, project leader and Director of the University's Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity. "But, at the current rate of deforestation, the sustainability of these resources is under serious threat."

Indonesia, is the largest producer of tropical timber, producing about 34 million m3 of sawn and veneer logs a year since 2007. An estimated 10% of wood imported into Australia is illegally traded, either cut down outside designated logging areas or outside of agreed environmental controls.

Although there are new laws in place against illegal logging and trade of illegally sourced timber, practical control mechanisms to identify the origin of wood and wood products have been lacking.

"DNA fingerprinting techniques use unique characters inherent in the timber to identify and track individual trees, logs or wood products," says Professor Lowe. "They offer a cost-effective and robust method for controlling the original source of the wood."

The researchers will develop a species identification and timber-tracking system for important Indonesian timber species from the red and light red meranti group of trees – which make up more than half of the wood trade in the region.

Using DNA-fingerprints, a tree-by-tree approach will control the 'chain of custody' in cooperation with the forestry agency and timber companies in Indonesia. Staff from Indonesian partners will be trained to do the DNA testing.

Other partners in the project are the Centre for Forest Biotechnology and Tree Improvement (CFBTI) in the Indonesian Forest Research and Development Agency, the Institute of Forest Genetics at Thünen Institute in Germany, and the World Resources Institute in the US.

"At the end of the project Indonesia should be able to continue with the species and origin control by themselves," says Professor Lowe.

Explore further: Indonesia struggles to clean up corrupt forestry sector

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Using DNA in fight against illegal logging

Jun 30, 2011

Advances in DNA 'fingerprinting' and other genetic techniques led by Adelaide researchers are making it harder for illegal loggers to get away with destroying protected rainforests.

Indonesia, EU pact to stop illegal timber exports

Sep 30, 2013

Indonesia, Asia's leading exporter of timber to Europe, on Monday signed a long-awaited pact with the European Union to fight the trade in illegal timber, a driver of environmentally damaging deforestation.

EU cracks down on illegal timber trade

Mar 01, 2013

The European Union is cracking down on the timber trade in an effort to curb illegal logging, blamed for a host of ills from social upheaval to environmental and economic damage.

Recommended for you

UN sends team to clean up Bangladesh oil spill

13 hours ago

The United Nations said Thursday it has sent a team of international experts to Bangladesh to help clean up the world's largest mangrove forest, more than a week after it was hit by a huge oil spill.

How will climate change transform agriculture?

13 hours ago

Climate change impacts will require major but very uncertain transformations of global agriculture systems by mid-century, according to new research from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

Report: Radiation leak at nuclear dump was small

13 hours ago

A final report by independent researchers shows the radiation leak from the federal government's underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico was small and localized.

Confucian thought and China's environmental dilemmas

17 hours ago

Conventional wisdom holds that China - the world's most populous country - is an inveterate polluter, that it puts economic goals above conservation in every instance. So China's recent moves toward an apparent ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.