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PARTNERSHIPS FOR ENHANCED ENGAGEMENT IN RESEARCH (PEER)
Cycle 8 (2019 Deadline)


A wood species identification tool to aid in compliance and enforcement of Peruvian timber regulations

PI: José Ugarte Oliva (jugarte@itp.gob.pe), Instituto Tecnológico de la Producción - CITEmadera
U.S. Partner: Michael Wiemann, U.S. Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory
Project Dates: January 2020 - December 2021

Project Overview:
 
8-161 Wood Identifier Demo
A member of Dr. Ugarte’s project team demonstrates the use of the XyloTron in identifying a wood sample.
Illegal harvesting of trees ranks third in international crimes, causes up to 70 percent of deforestation, and costs billions of dollars in lost revenue annually (WWF, 2019), and Peru has been severely impacted. Many of the traded woods are high value species that are considered endangered by the Peruvian government (Resolución Ministerial Nº 0505 – 2016 – MINAGRI, 2016). In the case of Cedrela odorata and Swietenia macrophylla, they also are already included in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Law enforcement agencies have been mandated to develop strategies that curb this activity, but the ability to identify species accurately is limited to a few specialists worldwide. This situation is amplified in Peru due to the large number of commercial species, giving rise to a need for regulators to be familiar with the diverse anatomical characteristics and the numerous species that look similar. Species identification has been reported to be the limiting factor in enforcing compliance with national and international laws regarding the legal harvesting of timber. Training in wood identification and the development of tools to aid in wood species identification are needed by an expanding international community within public and private organizations. Therefore, the aim of this PEER project is to empower Peruvians in the enforcement of Peruvian environmental laws by implementing a field-deployable wood identification machine vision technology, XyloTron. The Wood Technological Innovation Center (CITEmadera), a government entity linked to the Technological Institute of Production (ITP) and a partner in the Peruvian timber sector, will be responsible for executing this project. The U.S. and external partners will consult on the acquisition and curation of the botanical samples, production of XyloTrons in Peru, and model building for the new species in the machine learning classifier. They will also provide assistance during field deployment.

The implementation of the XyloTron identification system for the 15 most important Peruvian tropical timbers should have many positive impacts in the forestry sector of Peru. The country is going through a difficult period due to conflicts between trade and forest resources conservation, and monitoring and enforcement operations for illegal timber need to be reinforced. Enforcement tasks are concentrated primarily at 40 active control points and the exportation ports, where the timber is inspected, with species identification being a key element. However, wood identification requires much knowledge and expertise, and neither Peru nor the rest of the world have enough of the necessary specialists to meet these needs. This PEER project will implement the XyloTron system as the key to improving the capability of wood identification at control points and ensuring legal harvest and trade. As part of the project objectives, CITEmadera will also transfer this technology to Peruvian government institutions responsible for the control of illegal timber so that they can test its effectiveness and integrate it in their workflow. In addition, the equipment of the XyloTron system will be available for further investigations of Peruvian wood species, and the PEER team will provide the necessary training. All of these actions should help Peru better manage its legacy of precious wood and contribute to the global effort to combat the illegal timber harvest.

Summary of Recent Activities:

8-161 2020 Site Visit
PI Dr. José Ugarte (second from right) and his team welcome Lina Stankute-Alexander of NAS and Dr. Lily Sweikert (facing one another at center) during their visit to CITEmadera in January 2020.
Project team members continued photographing the cross-sectional surfaces of the prepared xylotheque wood samples during the third quarter of 2021. As of mid-October, 35,184 photographs had been added to the database, corresponding to 9 of the 19 total species included in this study, which represents 47% of the total photographs expected to be obtained. These added images are being verified by U.S. co-partner John Hermanson, who is creating an identification model and algorithms for each species so that the system can detect them. Dr. Hermanson informed the PEER researchers in early August about a problem that was preventing visualization of the photographic images being captured. Frequent online meetings were held to identify and fix the problem, and fortunately the system was back to normal operation by August 23.

As mentioned in previous reports, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is donating four XyloTron systems (the xyloscope plus a laptop), and it has required constant coordination between USFS and the recipient organizations, CITEmadera and National Forest and Wildlife Service (SERFOR), to get the necessary paperwork in order to accept the donations. The PEER team also convened meetings with SERFOR to plan training workshops on the use of the XyloTron system. A virtual workshop was planned for the last week of October and several in-person sessions in November. It was also agreed that field tests of the system would be carried out in the second, third, and fourth weeks of November. Other planned activities for the last quarter of 2021 are focused on the completion of the photographic capture of xylograph samples, the addition of new species to the XyloTron system, and laboratory-level identification tests.

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