DNA barcoding to track illegally logged Brazilian trees

Scotland on Sunday reports about use of DNA barcoding to track the illegal logging that’s devastating large tracts of fragile Amazon rainforest.  While DNA barcoding has been used for a while to identify human forensic samples in criminal cases, its use in identifying plant material is relatively new.

Amazon rainforest in Manaus, north of Brazil. From Wikimedia Commons, photo by Phil P. Harris

We’ve mentioned the use of DNA barcoding in timber tracking before – it’s a new solution to an ongoing problem. Although police may be able to track timber they believe to be illegally logged, and identify suspects, until recently there has been no method of matching the timber to the area of the forest. The Scotland on Sunday article gives a good explanation of why this is so, and how DNA barcoding solves this problem.

You can also find a short video here that shows the deforestation over time.

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