FRIM develops DNA markers for karas species identification
FRIM Genetic Laboratory will be ready to offer Aquilaria species identification and verification services once it has completed the development of the DNA markers.
2 September 2013 (Monday) – Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) has successfully developed DNA markers for five Aquilariaspecies (karas), while still working on three (3) others, in an effort to help ensure the accurate identification and verification of the species.
FRIM has been approached by plantation owners to assist in this since 2011 to ensure compliance with requirements under the International Trade in Endangered Species Act 2008 (Act 686), gazetted on 14 February 2008 and enforced from 1 July 2010.
Under the Act, karas planters are required to register and submit relevant information on the species to be planted including its verification certificate. The problem with the species identification is that it is difficult to distinguish the species at sapling stage given they share similar features.
Aquilaria malaccensis, one of the species found in Terengganu.
Therefore, in support of the implementation of this Act and to assist the plantation sector, FRIM has taken the initiative to conduct the research project using DNA Marker Technology in 2012. The project, funded by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), is undertaken with support of the Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak Forest Department.
The study covers all five major local species, namely A. malaccensis(agarwood, karas or depu), A. microcarpa (garu), A. hirta (candan), A. rostrata and A. beccariana (gaharu tanduk), and three exotic species—A. crassna, A. subintegra and A. sinensis.
“Once the study is completed end of this year, FRIM will be able to start offering Aquilaria species identification and verification services to karas planters by 2014,” said FRIM Director General Dato’ Dr Abd Latif Mohmod.
He said the high commercial value of its resin known as agarwood (gaharu), used in the perfume industry as well as for medical purposes and religious ceremonies, has resulted in the increasing interest in establishing karas plantations for agarwood in the country.
The value of agarwood can fetch up to RM25,000/kg depending of the grade and quality, and with the introduction of inoculation technology, agarwood production has increased.
Due to uncontrolled harvesting, Aquilaria species have been listed in the schedule species under Appendices I, II and III to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
For any query on the research project, please contact Dr Norwati Muhammad or Dr Siti Salwana Hashim via email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com.