Brazil has the most considerable diversity of timber-producing species in the world. It has more than eight thousand tree species in forests. The country is one of the essential timber growers worldwide and contributes to the development of this productive sector. Although this considerable diversity provides many advantages, it is also very challenging to control all the aspects related to the use of this natural resource, such as timber harvesting, transport, and trade.

To differentiate one wood species from another is a challenging and complex task. Some timbers look much alike, and it may not be possible to correctly identify them, mainly when only general wood characteristics are observed. Illegal loggers and traders know it and use this to take advantage when transporting or trading controlled species.

In situations like this, identifying timbers based on their anatomy is the traditional method recommended. A well-trained specialist can distinguish different species by analysing the cellular pattern of the wood with the help of a magnifying lens. Each species has its specific pattern, making it possible to sort different species and check if the documents of a load are correct.

Although identifying timbers based on their anatomy can be an effective method, it is hard to find enough wood anatomists to do this task. The amount of wood being traded is too high, making it challenging to analyse everything. It takes years of studying and practicing to acquire the knowledge and experience needed, while the need for professionals able to identify different wood species gets higher each day.

In this context, the Interactive Identification Key of Brazilian Commercial Timbers works as a tool to help inspection agents fight against illegal forest logging by providing information about different timber species. It was developed based on the general and anatomical characteristics of wood, which can be observed with the help of a pocket knife and a magnifying glass.

This tool works as a database of general and anatomical characteristics of wood, such as color, density, and conservation status. Each species and some of its characteristics have additional images to help the identification process. The user will be able to compare the sample identified with the images available in the tool. The observed characteristics can be selected in the system, which discards the species that do not match the criteria provided. It filters the list of species available, leaving just the ones with the selected characteristics.

The method's main advantage is that it allows agents to stop operations as soon as they verify any illegality regarding timber transportation or trade because it can be used directly in the field and provides fast answers.

The key was developed by the Forest Products Laboratory (LPF) of the Brazilian Forest Service (SFB) using the Lucid Platform (Lucidcentral - Identification and Diagnostic Tools). It is the result of a partnership with the Federal Police of Brazil, with the support of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) through the CITES Tree Species Programme (CTSP Programme).

The database has information about 275 commonly commercialized wood species in Brazil and species listed in CITES Appendices. The selection of the species listed in CITES Appendices was made especially considering the growth of the international trade of Brazilian wood to avoid the illegal harvest of endangered species. In this context, the key is available in Portuguese and English, making it possible for the tool to be used in other countries.

Data of all species were obtained from the analysis of samples from the scientific wood collection of the Forest Products Laboratory (Xylarium Dr. Harry van der Slooten). The samples have been collected during the laboratory's research projects for almost 50 years. For more information, please visit the key access link


Tereza Cristina Monteiro Pastore, Brazil