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Tropical Timber Information Center

The Tropical Timber Information Center was organized in 1974 in response to requests from the wood-using industry to provide information services for tropical woods. The primary activities of the Center have been to answer inquiries about uses and properties of tropical woods and for identifications of unknown woods. Other activities include short courses and publication of information on tropical woods.

The Center is a unit of the faculty of Wood Products Engineering, and is located in Baker Laboratory on the campus of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York. The primary resources of the Center are the H.P. Brown Memorial Wood Collection; a large library on anatomy, properties and uses of the woods of the world; and an expert system that uses a data base on physical properties, mechanical properties, and uses of both temperate zone and tropical woods.

tropical forestThere is an enormous world-wide demand for high quality hardwoods. Quantity and quality of North American hardwoods continues to increase, but in many cases, such as for specialty products or where woods of particular color or grain are desired, imported woods may be more appropriate. Imprudent forest management has seriously damaged many tropical forests, while others continue to produce large amounts of wood on a sustained basis. Sustainability of wood supply should be factored into decisions on the procurement of any wood.

Although relatively plentiful, tropical timbers are found scattered throughout vast, often remote areas in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Of many thousands of tree species growing in the tropics, only a few hundred are utilized. A much smaller number are exported, due in many cases to the quantity of wood available on a continuing basis, or because the wood properties of the secondary species are not well known.

The lack of information on properties and uses of the lesser-known tropical woods makes it difficult for the North American wood-using industry to make suitable judgments as to the suitability of particular woods for their products. The Tropical Timber Information Center can provide data on both temperate and tropical woods, so an appropriate selection can be made for the most suitable wood to be used for particular purposes. A primary goal of the center is to provide information on both primary and secondary tropical species, in order to help both the North American wood-using industries and the wood industries in developing countries, so that sustained production of wood from managed forests will be possible long into the future.

The Tropical Timber Information Center strives to collect information on woods from all parts of the world so these woods can be used in the best possible way. In many cases, the best use for a particular tree species may be as forest cover or for local use as a construction material or for firewood. In other cases, it may be possible to develop additional markets for some species, and therefore improve the local economy.

In those cases where not enough is known about a given tree species, the Center can provide research services to learn more about its properties. Inquiries about such research projects are invited.

As a part of the faculty of Wood Products Engineering, the Center has access to the Wood Products Engineering laboratories. These facilities include the N.C. Brown Center for Ultrastructure Studies with various types of light and electron microscopes, a sawmill, plywood mill, preservation laboratory, and the Wood Engineering Laboratory for evaluating mechanical and physical properties of woods and wood-based products. This wide variety of supporting equipment makes it possible to perform many types of research on any species of wood to suit the needs of a particular client.

In addition, the College of Environmental Science and Forestry is a major research center for forestry and allied topics. Specialists in wood decay, forest economics, tropical and temperate forest management, and pulp and paper lend assistance to the Center as needed.

Short inquiries may be answered as a public service of the Center. Longer inquiries requiring more extensive literature searches or identifications of wood samples are performed on a fee basis. Income from these fees is used to support activities of the Center, such as hiring student assistants, acquiring books and supplies, or maintaining the computer database.

For more information, please contact:

Robert W. Meyer, Director
Tropical Timber Information Center
State University of New York
College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Syracuse, NY 13210-2786


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