Decision Support Tools

Timber and commodity buyers need to be able to verify claims about timber species and origin of timber and other commodities, and information about the production process to meet their due diligence requirements. Similarly, enforcement agents need this information to help target oversight and control actions. However, untangling information about complex supply chains is difficult and the technical ability to identify the timber species and origin of a commodity remains limited in most countries. FGP assists in the development of tools and resources to support supply chain management and works towards expanding the uptake of scientific testing methods to support due diligence and law enforcement.

Scientific testing to verify product claims

There are a range of scientific tests and analyses that can be applied to a sample to determine either species or harvest origin. Different methods are useful for different types of questions and applications. It is also useful to distinguish between screening methods and diagnostic identification methods. Screening methods are quick to apply, can help identify red flags, but may not be able to verify the species and harvest origin of a product. Alternatively, diagnostic identification methods can verify claims about the species and origin of a product if the appropriate comparative or “reference” databases exist.

Screening methods can include simple checks on shipment information, e.g., to identify mismatches between a reported country of harvest and known production areas for commodities and native ranges for tree species. In the case of timber, they can also include tools like machine-vision wood anatomy that compares a digital image of an unknown wood sample to a digital image reference database. Diagnostic identification methods can include using genetic analysis, stable isotope ratio analysis and mass spectrometry analysis to verify the species and/or origin of a product. Though these screening and diagnostic identification tools are being used, they are not being employed at the scale necessary to realize their full impact. The main obstacles for broad application have been the lack of species and origin reference databases. In 2017, WRI, Royal Botanic Gardens-Kew, USFS-International Programs and others came together to create World Forest ID, bringing together expertise in science, traceability, and forestry to create a new approach to species and origin verification for forest risk commodities. In 2021, World Forest ID was granted 501c3 status by the US government as a private, non-profit organization.

To date, this initiative has resulted in the collection of almost 35,000 reference samples of 345 species in 49 countries. These samples are being analyzed to develop the first comprehensive global non-proprietary reference database for chemical methods. WRI serves on the board of World Forest ID, and in this role will continue to actively engage and support the further development of this work.

Open Timber Portal

The Open Timber Portal (OTP) is a web platform that promotes compliance with legal requirements in timber harvest and trade.

The OTP aims to serve as a one-stop shop for information on timber producers. It seeks to bring transparency to timber operations and improve access to country-specific information about forest management and harvesting, while increasing the effectiveness of regulations on illegal logging. It does so by making information about on-the-ground management practices and compliance with timber legality requirements public and accessible.

The platform compiles information from four different sources:

  1. Official concession boundaries and list of registered timber producers from governments
  2. Documents uploaded voluntarily by forest operators to demonstrate compliance
  3. Observations of suspected non-compliance from third-party forest monitors and NGOs.
  4. Data from Global Forest Watch on annual tree cover loss and weekly alerts on tree cover loss within the boundaries of the concessions

Additionally, the OTP assesses performance of all timber producers against a standard set of documents and metrics, enabling market differentiation, complementary to certification. The platform currently covers the Congo Basin, but is in the process of expanding to other regions.

Decision Support Tools Partnerships and Activities

  • FGP works with scientists and government agencies in producer and import countries to drive the development of open-access reference databases for wood identification technologies.
  • FGP and partners are building a community of practice among wood identification professionals, government agency staff, and potential users of these analysis methods in the U.S. and other import and producer countries. The goal is to expand the community of scientists able to provide these services, while also sharing best practices and fostering collaboration.
  • FGP is working with partners to conduct research on intellectual property law as it pertains to wood identification technologies to develop a ‘best practices’ guide.
  • FGP sits on the board of World Forest ID and provides technical support related to geospatial monitoring and spatial data integration.
  • FGP steers the development of the Open Timber Portal (OTP) in consultation with partners, donors and users
  • FGP oversees data collection and manages quality control on data uploaded on the OTP
  • In partnership with timber trade federations, FGP works with logging companies to train them on the OTP and encourage them to upload their compliance documents as well as with importers in consumer countries to train them on how to use the platform for their due diligence
  • FGP supports independent forest monitors in producing more high-level quality data, becoming more effective, more credible and more visible, thus increasing pressure on governments to enforce existing laws and improve regulations more effectively.
  • FGP works with government agencies in producer countries to explore how the OTP can support the deployment of national legality and traceability systems
  • FGP coordinates outreach and trainings with other tool owners (e.g., ATIBT, ZSL/SPOTT, NEPCon, ClientEarth, BVRio) where possible.

Contacts

Sophie Labaste, Associate and Product Manager - Decision Support Tools
Achille Djeagou Tchoffo, Regional Coordinator Congo Basin - Open Timber Portal
Igerha Bampa, Technical Assistant - Open Timber Portal
Tina Schneider, Director, Forest Governance and Policy - Decision Support Tools