Digital Xylarium: online "Wood Library" to be launched by DOST FPRDI

Forester Glenn Estudillo working on wood samples, photo from DOST-FPRDI

The Department of Science and Technology - Forest Products Research and Development Institute’s (DOST-FPRDI) is preparing to launch a digital repository of their Herbarium and Xylarium (Wood Library) collection.

Their herbarium contains around 20,000 samples of local and foreign wood specimens, with 4,000 tree species from 108 countries. This serves as a research source for archaeologists, researchers, and students to for identification of species. It has the most comprehensive collection of wood specimens in the country.

Their oldest sample is a 117-year-old specimen of a Yakal tree collected in Tayabas, Quezon , by W.H. Wade. The sample was first collected in 1903.

The herbarium and xylarium also has a rich history. According to DOST FPRDI Material Science Division Forester Glenn B. Estudillo, American experts during the American occupation in the 1900s donated their collection of speciments to the Bureau of Forestry. This collection was transferred to the Philippine Forest School (now the UPLB College of Forestry and Natural Resources) and eventually turned over to the DOST FPRDI.

“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,” said Estudillo.

The project aims to identify and conserve endangered trees and also help in the anti-illegal logging campaign in the Philippines. DOST FPRDI's wood identification service "has been instrumental in the government’s anti-illegal logging campaign as it serves as basis for charges filed against loggers and shipowners that transport illegally-cut timbers."

The oldest sample is 117 years old

Digitizing wood

The digitization project involves taking high-resolution images of the samples and creating an inventory. Information and photos will be uploaded to a digital platform. For easy access, QR codes are assigned for each sample to be digitized. The QR code will provide information about the specimen such as scientific names, native names, origin of sample, collector, and date of sampling.

According to Estudillo, “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."

Aside from preservation and aiding research, the wood library can also be useful for archeologists and the business sector. Wood specimens from archaeological sites may give us clues on how our ancestors have lived. Construction, furniture, and handicrafts industries can also benefit as the project can help them identify wood materials.

In 2017, DOST FPRDI has also helped identify the wood used in damaged heritage structures, furniture, artifacts, and religious items during the 2013 earthquake that devastated Bohol and Cebu. This has aided the National Historical Commission of the Philippines in their restoration projects.

Cabalza, D. (14 March 2021). DOST wood library digitizes its rare, valuable collection. Link

De Leon, A.J.M. (15 February 2021). DOST-FPRDI preserves priceless wood samples thru digitization. Link

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