The tree detectives episode of BBC’s People fixing the world program clearly explains what GTTN stands for with concrete examples. In the podcast, the reporter talks to a forest concession manager in the Solomon Islands, where there are cases of legally sourced wood shipments mixed with wood from illegal sources. Then she talks to wood anatomist Dr Peter Gasson (Kew Gardens), who explains how to determine origin and species of wood. These two are collecting wood samples used to cross-reference and confirm that timber claims are accurate.
Finally, she meets Roger Young, Agroisolab. He explains how a stable isotopes analysis can pinpoint the origin of wood, but how the whole idea depends on the collection of wood reference samples.
As reported earlier, different GTTN Members have aligned to build, validate and grow a database of geo-referenced wood samples, namely FSC, USFS, Agroisolab, Kew Gardens and WRI. They conducted pilots in the US and Latin America in 2018 and are planning to expand to Africa and Asia working with local governments and community forests using the FSC network.
A video illustrates the podcast’s story: scientists and volunteers take reference samples from a tree, then, they record the exact location, and send it to the Kew Gardens to confirm the tree species and for a stable isotope analysis.
There is still plenty of work to do, especially if we consider the number of unidentified timber species. But this is more than a promising start and in the end producers as well as consumers will be able to differentiate between illegal and legal sources.
Overall this episode of People fixing the world provides a very practical insight into the scientific work to stop illegal logging and to protect the forests. It is highly recommended!