Development and implementation of a species identi cation and timber tracking system in Africa with DNA fingerprints and Stable Isotopesm

Project Team: Opuni-Frimpong, E., Mensah, J., Bandoh, W., Opoku Mensah, E., Govina, J. and Ofori, E.


Illegal logging and trade in illegal timber and wood products are the cause of many economic and ecological problems in both producer and consumer countries. Although instruments have been established against illegal logging and trade, at both national and regional levels, practicable control mechanisms to identify the origin of timber and wood products are lacking. Such methods of identifying types of wood and timber origins are fundamental prerequisites for e fficient import controls or corresponding origin testing by the timber industry. Existing timber tracking systems use paper-based records of timber origin at all levels of the documentation process. The tests presently used, for example in the scope of the CITES international species protection convention, meet their limits in many tropical tree species. New methods that are on the threshold of usability are DNA fingerprints and stable isotopes. The innovative character of these new methods stem from the fact that characteristics inherent to the timber are used instead of externally applied marks. This eliminates the possibility of falsifying accompanying chain-of-custody-documents and marks and reduces the possibility of laundering timber from illegal harvest. It allows for independent controls at any point of the complex timber trade network. The combination of both methods, DNA- fingerprints and stable isotopes, has the advantage that a higher cost effi ciency, and spatial resolution and stronger statistical power for the control system can be expected. First results of pilot-studies with Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) in Latin-America and Iroko (Milicia excelsa) and Sapele (Entandrophragma cylindricum) in Cameroon support this assumption. Th e lead country for this project is Germany and other timber producing partner countries include; Ghana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and Kenya. Th e objective is to develop and implement a species identi cation and timber tracking system with DNA  fingerprints and stable isotopes for important timber tree species in Africa. At a project implementation team meeting in Cameroon, three species were targeted for the study namely; Milicia excelsa (Odum/Iroko), Triplochiton scleroxylon (Wawa/Ayou) and Entandrophragma cylindricum (Sapele). However, Ghana was given more funds to do more sampling of Khaya species which was not on the list of common species from Yoyo Forest Reserve. Th e outcome of this project would ensure better enforcement of forest laws and regulations by improved veri fication and monitoring procedures and transfer of knowhow and capacity building in producer countries.