ENFORCE - Centre d'Expertise sur la Légalité du Bois
Within the European Union, 27.5% of all tropical roundwood and sawn wood is imported via Belgium (mainly via the port of Antwerp). A substantial part of the global timber trade is illegal and illegal logging is considered to be the most profitable violation of biodiversity regulations. Belgium therefore plays a key role in the international timber trade and has an important responsibility to (1) monitor the trade in timber and timber products and (2) build research capacity for timber identification and apply it in an enforcement context. Worldwide, there is a lack of capacity for both forensic and routine verification procedures in the timber trade. There is also a need for reference databases for relevant wood identification techniques. Given the enormous scale of the illegal timber trade and the associated problems, the project aims to initiate the installation of a Belgian forensic wood identification center at the Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA). The wood collection of the RMCA is one of the largest in the world and contains over 80,000 wood samples, including more than 13,000 species. This Forensic Wood Centre will be the Belgian reference center for wood identification and will include both scientific services and scientific research. Examples of possible scientific services (40%) are (1) carrying out wood identification through routine analyses of wood anatomical characteristics (namely through services to the Belgian inspection services and customs), (2) analyses of material potentially composed of different taxa, (3) acting as a reference address - including the possibility to call on the RMCA for wood analysis (for a fee) - for wood importers in Belgium and Europe, (4) providing training and (5) developing a sampling strategy with customs and DG Environment aimed at systematic controls of the wood trade. Concerning scientific research (60%), there is a need to modernize, improve and automate routine techniques (especially in the area of applying machine learning, and Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry and origin identification), as well as to improve the identification of wood species in wood panels (plywood, MDF, chipboard). This is not possible with the currently available techniques, while several reports indicate that misidentification of wood species often occurs in these wood products.

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