Tree Tech

The Microchip That May Save the Amazon

Every year thousands of trees are cut down in Brazil, shrinking the world’s largest forest and creating making Brazil one of the leading producers of greenhouse gases. But a small pilot project lead by Acao Verde (Green Action) has the potential to reduce much of the unsustainable forestry practices that threaten to permanently decimate the Amazon rainforest. In the program, a microchip is installed in the base of a tree. The chip bears information about the tree’s size and location and can communicate with hand held devices used by forestry engineers. If the tree is cut down, the chip stores information on who felled it and which sawmill processed and sold the lumber, integral information for buyers who want a guarantee that wood was produced without damaging the environment. Unlike illegal “slash-and-burn” logging, cutting trees selectively has the potential to generate revenues without harming forests and could even increase the amount of carbon dioxide the forests trap, according to forestry experts. Widespread use of the microchips could eliminate corruption in forestry, as fake certification papers are often used to hide the provenance of wood. "If there is fraud taking place between the forest owner and the mill, then a microchip would be great help in combating illegal logging," said Gary Dodge, director of science and certification at Forest Stewardship Council, a nonprofit that is leading proponent for lumber certification. Even loggers are behind the effort. Said logger Aristides Ferrari, “"I think it's a great idea…We don't want to cut down all the forests, on the contrary -- we want to make sure forests remain standing so we can continue working."