PhD defence

Timber tales: tracing the origin and species identity of African timbers using the plastid genome

PhD candidate B (Bárbara) Rocha Venancio Meyer-Sand
Promotor prof.dr. PA (Pieter) Zuidema
Co-promotor dr.ir. MMJ (Maarten) Smulders
dr. GA (Arjen) de Groot
Organisation Wageningen University, Forest Ecology and Forest Management
Date

Tue 18 June 2024 11:00 to 12:30

Venue Omnia, building number 105
Hoge Steeg 2
105
6708 PH Wageningen
+31 (0) 317 - 484500
Room Auditorium

Summary

The PhD research tackles the problem of illegal logging and trade of tropical timber, which harms forest management and conservation. The timber trade is complex, with wood often mixed from different species or regions, creating opportunities for illegal activities. Existing international regulations are hard to enforce effectively. The work focused on developing genetic tracing techniques to verify the origin of timber using its genetic profiles. Extensive fieldwork in Central Africa was conducted, collecting over 700 tree samples to create reference databases for two key African timbers, Azobé (Lophira alata) and Tali (Erythrophleum spp.). Using genetic markers, we could trace the origin of these timbers: 72% of Azobé and 60% of Tali blind samples within 100 km of their true origin. Combining genetic methods with chemical analysis further improved tracing accuracy, with 94% of trees accurately assigned within 100 km of their origin. This research provides valuable tools for enforcing timber trade laws and promoting sustainable forest management.