A University of Wageningen and Research article recently published in the scientific journal Biological Conservation concluded that tali timber can be successfully tracked to the concession of origin by using genetic markers, but not by using isotopic composition. It also suggested that isotopic differentiation may be possible at larger spatial scales or with stronger climatic or topographic variation.
The study examined 394 wood samples from 134 individuals in five different forest concessions in Cameroon and Republic of Congo. The researchers developed a reference database for the genetic markers using samples from across the study area and ran blind tests on remaining samples. This technique resembles real-world sample testing.
According to an article recently published in the online magazine Mongabay lead author Mart Vlam, also of the Forest Ecology and Forest Management Research Group, said: “I had 12 pieces of timber of which I knew the origin but the genetic specialists at Wageningen Environmental Research didn’t… I gave them the samples and asked them to identify which concessions they came from. They got it right 92% of the time—that’s a great score.” The authors highlighted that the results support the method’s potential as a forensic tool to enforce timber trade legislation.
“We need to collect timber samples from a much larger area and our analyses and labs will have to meet strict criteria. We can’t do that on our own, so we are collaborating in a worldwide network of researchers, labs and authorities”, said Pieter Zuidema, co-author, in a statement.
Tali trees are a highly traded timber species in Africa. Thus, officials are trying to prevent illegal trade using species identification techniques, such as chemical analysis and wood structure analysis.
The building of strategic partnerships in Africa and beyond, and the recent developments in the field of timber tracking techniques will also be discussed during the GTTN Regional Workshop Africa taking place in Cameroon in June 2018.