With extinction rates being higher than any time in history, humanity is now in the midst of its greatest biodiversity crisis. With 90 per cent of species yet to be discovered, we are lagging behind in this battle for preserving biodiversity.
Enumerating various aspects of biodiversity and the use of DNA to conserve and protect forests was Prof. Andrew Lowe of the University of Adelaide, who delivered a talk at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) on 1 March 2016.
Prof. Lowe stated that humans have managed to name only a million species so far, and at this pace, it would take another 2000 years to complete cataloguing all species — though by that time, many of them would become extinct.
DNA technologies are now widely available, and Thailand possesses good capacity in this field, Prof. Lowe remarked. Quoting several examples, Prof. Lowe highlighted the role that DNA techniques are playing in monitoring and conserving biodiversity. Citing a study from Peru, he said that 98 per cent of the timber coming out of Peru is being sourced illegally. Out of the global timber trade of $ 180 billion, between 30-50 per cent of the timber trade internationally comes from illegal sources. Similarly, less than half of the “US white oak” sold in the United Kingdom comes from the US. Teak from Thailand is often not sourced from plantations, which indicates that natural forests areas are being cut to provide teak, he added.
He narrated how DNA barcoding was being used to support legal exports of timber. DNA is also being used for genus and specie identification, and determining the region of origin. While DNA barcoding is extensively used to distinguish between species, DNA fingerprint helps in distinguishing between individuals.
Earlier Prof. Lowe was welcomed by Prof. Rajendra Shrestha, Dean, School of Environment, Resources and Development (SERD). The talk was moderated by Dr. Nophea Sasaki of SERD.