Is Ipe entering your supply chain illegally? Overestimation of Ipe Stand Density and Volume in Pará, Brazil

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A recent study conducted in Pará, Brazil sheds a light on how Ipê logs enter supply chains illegally through fraud in forest inventories. The study found that there is a bias on the part of foresters to overestimate the harvestable volumes of high-value timber in logging permits (Brancalion et al. 2018). This is particularly true for Ipê (Handroanthus spp.). Most foresters reported much higher Ipê timber volumes than were found in the study forest inventory plots. In fact:

  • Only 61% of the 152 trees identified as Ipê in logging permits were confirmed during field checking of logged forests;
  • In one site, 93.3% of trees identified as Ipê were not Ipê;
  • 13 commercial species were falsely identified as Ipê;
  • Tanimbuca (Terminalia sp.), Jarana (Lecythis lurida), and Timborana (Anadenanthera sp.) were the species most frequently falsely identified as Ipê  (72.4% of the individuals);
  • Overestimation of the diameter at breast height (DBH) of real Ipê trees was common;
  • Of 130 logged trees assessed, 31% were smaller than the DBH claimed in logging permits.

Overestimating the number of Ipê trees and their volume of timber in forest inventories allows illegally logged Ipê to be stored in log decks, transported, and processed at sawmills all the while having a Document of Forest Origin (DOF) that declares legal provenance of the timber.

According to the study, this type of fraud is so widespread that in all of the management areas studied, the Ipê timber volume reported on the DOFs could not have been produced from that area alone while following harvest regulations.

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