Addressing the need for standardized wood reference collections to support authentication analysis technologies; a way forward for checking the origin and identity of traded timber

Societal Impact Statement

Forest products are the most used inedible renewable resource, but supplies are finite. It is difficult to know which tree species are in wood products or where they come from. Scientific evidence is needed to support or refute origin and species claims in traded products. We describe the building of a geo-referenced wood reference collection (xylarium) supported by herbarium voucher specimens. The WorldForest ID program, hereinafter referred to as WFID (, is embarking on large-scale field collections of wood samples suitable for science-based authentication technologies. By coordinating with regulatory and enforcement authorities in both producer and consumer countries the WFID xylarium is legally robust and commercially relevant.


We describe a program called WorldForestID which is being developed to monitor and support authentication and compliance in international trade of timber products. The program is being run by a consortium of government and non-government organizations: US Forest Service International Programs (USFS IP), Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Agroisolab, and World Resources Institute (WRI). Initial funding has come from the US Department of State, USFS IP, US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Forest Stewardship Council, and the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The aim is to build a comprehensive collection of internationally traded timber species. The collection is used as reference material to validate forest products. Although there are a large number of xylaria (wood collections, Index Xylariorum IV) around the world, many of the specimens do not provide geo-locations suitable as reference material for pinpointing provenance, many lack-associated herbarium vouchers and some are misidentified. The samples being collected in this program address these issues and include bark, sapwood, and heartwood, ensuring that the material collected is suitable for current and future scientific analysis. We describe the process of collection and validation from field to laboratory and the advantages and disadvantages of the main techniques used to ascertain/verify identity and provenance. Ultimately, we envisage the day that scientific methods will be used routinely and successfully by timber traders, manufacturers, retailers, and law enforcement to accept or reject identity and provenance claims on internationally traded timber and forest products and, where necessary, to support prosecutions when laws such as EU Timber Regulations, Lacey Act and CITES are infringed.

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