The CITES Secretariat and International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) have launched a report entitled Tracking sustainability: review of electronic and semi-electronic timber tracking technologies. This report has been produced within the framework of the joint ITTO-CITES Programme for Implementing CITES Listing of Tropical Timber Species and is part of the ITTO Technical Series (TS-40). Timber tracking technologies are relatively new and are gaining increasing importance as a result of changing consumer behavior and market demands. The report is a practical guide to using these rapidly evolving technologies.
The number of tree species included in the CITES Appendices has grown from 18 in 1975 to more than 350 today, with close to 200 of these used and traded for timber. Interest in including timber species in the CITES Appendices has particularly increased since the beginning of the 1990s and amplified in the last few years. For instance, countries such as Madagascar and Panama are proposing the CITES listing of close to 200 new timber species at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (Bangkok, 3-14 March 2013).
The ITTO-CITES program has supported the work of countries to generate biological information on tropical timber species in international trade. The partnership has assisted key timber exporting countries, such as Brazil, Indonesia, Liberia and Malaysia, in creating management plans and setting sustainable logging quotas. However, this is just a first step, beyond which putting in place an effective chain of custody becomes a challenge for many countries. It is at this point that tracking technologies become a key tool in ensuring that countries are trading in timber of sustainable and legal origin.
Strengthened national regulatory regimes for the use of and trade in timber species have been developed and implemented as a consequence of the CITES listings. This has resulted in improved forest management and monitoring systems for species such as the bigleaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), and in more revenue generated from forest fees and taxes. These reforms have been driven in part by a desire by many importing countries to ensure that products entering their markets are legally and sustainably produced. The resulting tracking systems are highly varied and complex, and include physical (tags and bar coding) and chemical (isotope and DNA analysis) tracking technologies. The CITES and ITTO report provides a compendium of existing timber tracking technologies with detailed information on the features of different systems that are becoming widely available in the forest sector.