ESR15: Logging forensics: mining ebony wood collections as references


PhD fellow Mehrdad Jahanbanifard

Host Naturalis Biodiversity Center

Supervisor Barbara Gravendeel

Co-supervisors Frederic Lens, Fons Verbeek

Secondment Ulrike Wiebel

Network training partner Sarah Stoner

In short

Stop illegal logging! The automated ebony identifier is on its way. Ebony wood is widely used in musical instrument parts, such as violin fingerboards and chin rests. Due to overharvesting, Malagasy ebony has been marked as an endangered species and the trade in wood harvested after 2014 is now illegal. I will develop a software-automated ebony species identifier to increase awareness among musicians of the use of illegally logged wood with the ultimate goal of protecting endangered ebony species against extinction.

Project description

Acoustic string instruments are made of several hardwood species, including ebony (Diospyros). Many species of ebony are nowadays over-exploited in the wild. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) placed all species of ebony from Madagascar on Appendix II in 2014 but other species are not legally protected. Computational microscopic phenotyping based on wood anatomical sections, chemical profiling and DNA barcoding are increasingly used to recognize wood traded under Forest Stewardschip Council (FSC) labels. Therefore, anatomy data, DNA barcodes and DART-TOF MS will be collected from reference specimens. Metabarcodes will be generated from ebony wood used in (parts of) instruments supplied by violin and bow builders and compared with microscopy, DART-TOF MS and bomb peak calibrated 14C dates to distinguish antique wood from wood harvested after 2013.

Objective: Species-level identification of ebony wood for control of trade in legally protected species.