Brief: DNA helps take on the illegal loggers

Advances in DNA barcoding are making it harder for illegal loggers to get away with destroying protected rainforests.

Thanks to growing research in this field, individual logs or wood products can now be traced back to the forests where they came from.

"Certification documents for timber can be falsified, but DNA cannot," says Professor Andrew Lowe, Co-Chair of the Fourth International Barcode of Life Conference.

Director of the University of Adelaide's Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity, Professor Lowe has led research efforts into DNA barcoding and fingerprinting timber products in conjunction with Singapore based company Double Helix Tracking Technologies, who are sponsoring the Tree Barcoding Symposium at the upcoming Conference for the Barcode of Life.

"We can use DNA barcoding to identify species, to identify and track individual logs or wood products, and we can verify the region the wood was sourced from.

"The advancement of a range of genetics technologies means that large-scale screening of wood DNA can be done cheaply, routinely, quickly and with a statistical certainty that can be used in a court of law," he says.

Professor Lowe and his colleagues are also applying DNA barcoding to conserve against species extinction and to inform ecosystem restoration programmes.

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