Illegal logging is a major environmental crime. Without accurate information on the species and origin of timber products, enforcement agents and buyers of wood products have no way to verify the legality of timber products. This poses an increasingly difficult problem for importers and enforcement agencies in regulated markets like the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, the Republic of Korea and Japan.

The World Forest ID Consortium aims to meet the need for verified timber products. Through a collaboration between the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (Kew), U.S. Forest Service International Programs (USFS IP), World Resources Institute (WRI) and Agroisolab, the WFID consortium has set out to build the largest, geo-referenced wood sample collection for global commercial timber species. This collection has chemical, anatomical and genetic reference libraries that enable users to validate claims about the species and provenance of forest products.

For chemical, anatomical and genetic identification methods to be used at scale, reference databases have to be created for priority traded species in producer countries. Since 2016, WFID has developed field and laboratory protocols for developing chemical reference databases. To date, the team has collected over 2000 physical samples from 19 countries and has obtained stable isotope and mass spectrometry data for over 1500 samples.

In the coming year, WFID plans to double their reference data collection and include four more countries, but more investment is needed.