Sydney: Advances in DNA 'fingerprinting' and other genetic techniques are helping curb illegal logging of dwindling rainforests.

Thanks to the latest research, DNA fingerprinting for timber products traces individual logs or wood products back to their forest sources.

Andrew Lowe, expert in evolutionary biology and biodiversity, University of Adelaide and molecular biologist Hugh Cross, have been working with Singapore company Double Helix Tracking Technologies (DoubleHelix) for forest trade and conservation.

"The advancement of genetics technologies means that large-scale screening of wood DNA can be done cheaply, routinely, quickly and with a statistical certainty that can be used in a court of law," says Lowe, reports the journal of International Association of Wood Anatomists.

"Importantly, these methods can be applied at a customs entry point to the country - certification documents can be falsified, but DNA cannot," adds Lowe, according to an Adelaide statement.

Australian companies have been the first in the world to purchase timber products that use DNA fingerprinting as part of proof of legal origin starting back in 2007. European and American importers are now following suit.

This research is closely aligned with another major project to develop a 'DNA barcode' for every tree and grass species on earth.

"The Barcode of Life projects will take five years to complete, but the information will lead to a step change in the way we can manage our species and ecosystems right across the globe," Lowe says.

(Agencies)