Hurricane Maria made landfall in September 2017, the storm left hundreds of
thousands of downed trees in its wake. Many of the trees were species with
commercially valuable wood, but which ones?
find out, an assessment of the post-hurricane wood, stored at 21 different
locations around the island, was requested by Puerto Rico’s Department of
Natural and Environmental Resources, or DNER. The Federal Emergency Management
Agency supported this request through the Natural and Cultural Resources
Recovery Support Function. The Department
of the Interior contacted the USDA Forest Service, and scientists Mike Wiemann
of the Forest Products Laboratory and William Gould from the International
Institute of Tropical Forestry developed an assessment of the species mix and
log quality of the downed trees.
Recent action by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) to suspend a major charcoal producer in Europe is one outcome of the FSC and Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) partnership. This collaboration aims at using forensic wood science to investigate supply chains. Alex C. Wiedenhoeft, Research Botanist and Team Leader in FPL’s Center for Wood Anatomy Research (CWAR), has led the CWAR side of a multi-year, award-winning research cooperation between FSC and FPL. Wiedenhoeft and his team conducted the forensic analysis of the contested charcoal.
Specimens of lump charcoal displayed on a specimen submission form.
At issue was whether charcoal appearing on the retail market with the FSC label was in fact sourced from FSC-certified forests. “Working with investigators within the FSC supply chain integrity team, our forensic results about the botanical origin of the charcoal showed that the species composition of the charcoal was or was not consistent with the species claim,” said Wiedenhoeft. “As with most forensic applications of botany, the bulk of the work is done by the real-world investigators, whether law enforcement or industrial auditors. Forensic wood science steps in at the evidence analysis phase to give the investigators solid data to inform their investigation.”
Isthmus, a weekly newspaper here in Madison, Wisconsin, agrees, and featured Wiedenhoeft and his work to curb illegal logging as this week’s cover story.
FPL botanist Alex Wiedenhoeft
If you thought illegal logging was just a problem affecting trees and forests, think again. The article explains that “when law enforcement agents capture a shipment of illegal timber, they also often find illegally captured wildlife, illegal drugs, weapons and slaves” and that “revenue from illegally harvested timber has been linked to armed conflicts around the world.”
To find out how Wiedenhoeft works to combat these disastrous consequences, and learn about some of the wild cases he’s worked on over the years, read the full article at Isthmus.com.