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Journal Article

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Plants People Planet





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School of Science




Nature Foundation South Australia. Grant Number: 2019-3 / Biological Society of South Australia / Nature Conservation Society of South Australia / Bill-Retalic Prize for Science and Justice / Environment Institute, University of Adelaide / Australian Government, Department of Education (Research Training Program Scholarship)


Bunney, E., McInerney, F. A., Dormontt, E., Malik, A., Welti, N., Wilkins, D., ... & Lowe, A. J. (2023). Safeguarding sandalwood: A review of current and emerging tools to support sustainable and legal forestry. Plants, People, Planet, 5(2), 190-202).


Societal Impact Statement: Sandalwood and other high value tree species are under significant threat from illegal harvest. Illegal logging is an increasing problem contributing to deforestation, biodiversity loss, human rights abuses and funding transnational crime. Successful prosecution of illegal logging is hindered by a lack of methods to provide evidence of the origin of timber. New analytical techniques have been developed to trace timber back to its source. These methods, together with the establishment of sustainable sources of forest resources, can help protect vulnerable species by providing evidence to prosecute illegal harvest and ensure that commercially available forest products come from sustainable sources. Summary: Sandalwood is highly valued for its fragrant oil and has a long history of cultural and economic importance in many regions of the world. Historical overharvest and poor management have depleted natural populations of sandalwood, which are slow to regenerate. The increasing establishment of plantation sandalwood creates an alternative resource for the sandalwood industry while potentially relieving harvesting pressure on natural stands. Due to the high demand for sandalwood, remaining wild populations are still under threat from illegal logging and methods to identify the source of harvested sandalwood are needed. Laws and regulations aimed at preventing illegal harvest and possession of sandalwood have been put in place but cannot be enforced without the forensic tools to independently verify claimed origin or product quality. The high value of sandalwood combined with the difficulties in enforcing illegal logging laws makes these species particularly vulnerable to poaching. There is an immediate need to develop tools that can identify illegally sourced and adulterated sandalwood products. This paper reviews the current and developing scientific tools that can help identify and control illegal activity in sandalwood supply chains and provides recommendations for future research. Topics include isotope and DNA analysis for tracing illegally harvested sandalwood, chemical profiling for quality control of sandalwood oils, network and policy development to establish a framework for future regulation of the sandalwood trade.



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