Tracking technologies for CITES tree species

Workshop on Tracking technologies for forest governance, Kuala Lumpur, 15-17 May 2012

Due to the increasing need to more effectively implement CITES for listed  tree species and their products, the CITES Secretariat and the Secretariat of ITTO have joined forces to support the efforts of Parties to make use of modern tracking technologies, including through producing a draft Compendium on Timber Marking and Tracking Technologies.

Group photo of the participants to the workshop (click to see larger photo)

The Government of Malaysia very generously hosted a Workshop on Tracking technologies for forest governance in Kuala Lumpur, from 15 to17 May 2012. More than 80 participants attended from all forest related sectors and countries. The aim of the workshop was to revise the draft Compendium and to provide input on existing technologies from all over the world in this field.

The final Compendium on Timber Marking and Tracking Technologies will be published later this year as one issue of the ITTO Technical series.

History of tree species listings

On 1 July 1975, 18 tree species were included in the CITES Appendices. Today more than 300 tree species are included in the Appendices, and around 200 of them are used and traded for their timber. The interest to include timber species in the Appendices has increased since the beginning of the 1990s.

Since the last meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP15, March, Doha, 2010): Bolivia listed two species of Spanish cedar in Appendix III (Cedrela fissilis, and C. lilloi); both Brazil and Bolivia listed the species C. odorata; the Russian Federation listed the Korean pine (Pinus koraiensis); Madagascar listed 105 species of ebony (Diospiros spp) and 5 species of rosewood (Dalbergia spp); and Panama followed listing 2 species of rosewood. In total, 116 high-value timber species, have been listed over the last two years in CITES Appendix III and, we expect more to follow.

Special provisions for timber

Resolution Conf. 12.3 (Rev. CoP15) on Permits and certificates specifies the possibility of extending the validity of a permit beyond 12 months and the possibility of changing the destination mentioned on the permit.  These two provisions only apply to timber trade. Resolution Conf. 10.13 (Rev. CoP15) on Implementation of the Convention for timber species can also serve as reference of special provisions of CITES for these taxa.

Current trend in CITES timber trade and the need to strengthen capacities with, between other tools, the use of tracking technologies

Several countries are trying to implement new regulatory systems for timber species.

The private sector is playing an increasing role in supporting the work of the CITES Management Authorities and the Scientific Authorities including through  the funding of projects, technology, codes of conduct, registers, etc.

In many cases, the ITTO-CITES cooperation programme on tree species, has supported the work of Parties that needed to generate biological information on the timber species concerned. This has been very effective and has allowed key timber exporting countries to set management plans and a sustainable logging quota.

Once the sustainability of the harvest can be ensured, some of these countries face a great challenge to demonstrate that they have robust chain of custody. And it is at this point that the tracking technologies become a key tool that will ensure the importing countries that the imported timber can be regarded as sustainably and legally sourced.

The Conference of the Parties agreed and directed several Decisions on tree species. According to the Action plan for Cedrela odorata, Dalbergia retusa, Dalbergia granadillo and Dalbergia stevensonii, the range States shall, between other things

       …d) compile the information related to export of the species mentioned in this Decision, including volumes and products, indicating the percentage from plantations;…

       f) consider the inclusion of their populations of Cedrela odorata,Dalbergia retusa , Dalbergia granadillo and Dalbergia stevensonii in Appendix III, with the adequate annotation, and ensure the implementation and enforcement of CITES with regard to those species in that Appendix;

       g) consider the production of identification material for those species and similar species, collaborating with relevant expert organizations; and

This is just one example that shows the increasing relevance of tracking technologies to CITES. CITES has an important component on identification to the species level. This is a great challenge when it comes to identify CITES timber (and other) products in trade.

In the case of Swietenia macrophylla only the Populations of the Neotropics are listed in CITES and with annotation #6 that designates logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets, and plywood.

The Conference of the Parties adopted an action plan for the control of international trade in bigleaf mahogany. This action plan states in its paragraph 1 b) that All range States of the bigleaf mahogany should:

Perform studies of the sawn timber yields from logs, and on the height-diameter ratio, in order to improve management of and control over bigleaf mahogany timber;

Another tool used to strengthen the control of the trade in mahogany in the case of Peru has been the annually set export quota. The export quota is a powerful tool to control and monitor the use of a natural resource. However, as important as the export quota is the harvest quota or, in the case of timber species, the logging quota. Timber marking and tracking technologies can help countries like Peru to strengthen their chains of custody and to improve the transparency of the operations when managing an annual export quota.

Establishing quotas necessarily implies an accurate knowledge of the populations. When quotas are established without knowledge of populations and based solely on commercial and pre-commercial stocks, it is impossible to ensure the impact that exports will have on the populations in the wild.

In this context, the use of timber tracking technologies and the monitoring of the whole chain of the timber production can strengthen the quality of the non-detriment finding (NDF) made by the CITES Scientific Authorities. The use of timber tracking technologies can link harvest volumes approved by the CITES Scientific Authorities to the export shipments on the port of exit. We can conclude that these technologies can be another useful tool to improve the management of tree species listed in CITES.

The identification and management of the agarwood producing species can add additional challenges to the implementation of CITES for some of their wood products.