Banner for LabNotes
From Lab Notes
Contact Information
Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726-2398
Phone: (608) 231-9200
Fax: (608) 231-9592


You are here: FPL Home  / Information Products & Services  / Publications

Requested Product

Title: Forensic timber identification: It's time to integrate disciplines to combat illegal logging

Source: Biological Conservation

Author(s)Dormontt, 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.

Publication Year: 2015  View PDF »

Category: Journal Articles
Associated Research Project(s):   FPL-4715-3

Abstract: The 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.

Keywords: Wood anatomy; Mass spectrometry; Near infrared spectroscopy; Stable isotopes; Radiocarbon; DNA

Publication Review Process: Formally Refereed

File size: 296 kb(s)

Date posted: 08/05/2016

This publication is also viewable on Treesearch:  view
RITS Product ID: 79852
Current FPL Scientists associated with this product (listed alphabetically)
Hermanson, John C.
Research General Engineer
Wiedenhoeft, Alex C.
Research Botanist

Additional items that might interest you
View the video celebrating FPL's 100 years of public service in 2010, from the producers of the Greatest Good....view

Research Highlights from FPL....view

Termite Eradication: A search for the Holy Grail.... view

Moisture Management in Residential Construction Series videos...view

Wood Floor Systems in Residential Construction Series videos....view
- FPL's Mission and Strategic Plan -

FPL's mission is to identify and conduct innovative wood and fiber utilization research that contributes to conservation and productivity of the forest resource, thereby sustaining forests, the economy, and quality of life. ... ..more »

- FPL Research Emphasis Areas -
Advanced Composites

As an integral part of the FPL mission, we improve the long-term sustainability of our Nation's forests by creating valuable composite products from biobased materials ... ..more »

Advanced Structures

The FPL has been in the forefront of wood-frame housing research since 1910 and has long been recognized as a world leader in such housing-related areas as engineered wood ... ..more »

Forest Biorefinery

We all know the compelling reasons that the United States needs to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Historically, the greatest increases in energy demand have been for transportation fuels ... ..more »


A leader in wood products research for over a century, the FPL is positioning itself to become the lead Federal research facility for the application of nanotechnology in forest products ... more »

Woody Biomass Utilization

Forests in the United States contain a substantial amount of small-diameter, overstocked, and underutilized material.FPL research projects are exploring the potential of the small-diameter ... ..more »