Good news for archaeologists, foresters and students.
The Department of Science and Technology-Forest Products Research and Development Institute (DOST-FPRDI) may open its digital wood library to the public soon, as it has started digitizing around 20,000 wood samples from both local and foreign sources.
Forester Glenn B. Estudillo of the DOST-FPRDI’s Material Science Division- Anatomy and Forest Botany Section cited the need to protect and preserve the country wood collection samples, the oldest of which was 117 years old.
He recalled that after the American occupation in the early 1900s, American experts left their collection of wood specimens gathered from their exploration of Philippine forests at the then Bureau of Forestry.
During World War II, it was transferred to the Philippine Forest School, which is now University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB)-College of Forestry and Natural Resources), then to the DOST-FPRDI, he said.
“This is a very rare and valuable collection since some of the collected species no longer exist in the natural forests. We have to protect them because it will be hard to stockpile and impossible to replicate this collection again,” Estudillo said
The DOST-FPRDI said its Herbarium and Xylarium (Wood Library) houses around 20,000 wood samples gathered from both local and foreign sources and has the most complete wood collection in the country with more than 4,000 tree species to date, and about 108 contributing countries.
“The oldest wood sample at FPRDI’s Xylarium is a 1903 Yakal collected in Tayabas, Quezon by W.H. Wade,” the Institute said.
Estudillo and other DOST-FPRDI experts have started digitizing each wooden sample by making an inventory of the specimens and capturing high-resolution (20x) images of each wooden sample, using a digital microscope.
The Institute said the information and photos are uploaded and a QR code is assigned to each specimen for indexing and easy access.
“A quick scan of the QR code will generate information such as the scientific, local and family names, voucher number, wood sample’s place of origin, name of the person who collected it, and date of sampling,” it said.
It was Estudillo and his son, Aeron Casey who developed and introduced a QR code to each wood sample.
“Every time we identify a piece of wood, we cut a thin portion off the sample. Doing this repeatedly will eventually ‘shrink’ the samples. Digitization will allow us to identify the wood species while preserving the wood blocks,” Estudillo said.
He explained that wood identification is the scientific process of establishing the identity of a wood specimen based on its anatomical, physical and structural properties.
“With the aid of highly-magnified photos, one can identify the species faster and more accurately than simply using the naked eye and a hand lens. Digitization also allows for greater accessibility because anyone with an internet connection and a smart phone will be able to access DOST-FPRDI’s digital wood library,” he said.
The FPRDI said its wood identification service has boosted the government’s anti-illegal logging campaign as it served as basis for charges filed against loggers and shipowners that transport illegally-cut timbers.
“It also helps archaeologists understand how our ancestors lived by identifying wood specimens recovered from their study sites,” it said.
Likewise, it is crucial to clients in the construction, furniture and handicraft sectors who need assurance on the identity of their wood materials, it added.
“In this digital age, DOST-FPRDI promises to adapt in order to preserve these priceless specimens. We are currently in the process of completing the digitization while also applying for a copyright. We hope to share our digital wood library to the public soon,” Estudillo said.