Congratulations to Prof John MacKay and Dr David Boshier, awarded a Darwin Grant

Congratulations to Professor John MacKay and Dr David Boshier, recently awarded a Darwin Grant for the project 'Conserving Rosewood genetic diversity for resilient livelihoods in the Mekong'.

The project will work with forestry authorities and rural communities in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, using in situ and ex situ methods to safeguard the genetic resources of three Dalbergia rosewood species of high conservation concern. It will develop novel, and strengthen existing, capacity for seed collection, seed source and nursery management, and associated value chain development. The project will run for 2.75 years from July 2018, with a grant from the Darwin Initiative of: £409,897

Professor John MacKay, the department's Wood Professor of Forest Science, said: "Rosewoods are a part of a group of over 200 Dalbergia species, which are pan-tropical and include many rare or endangered species. This project will help to create a genetics research platform with the potential for impact in the Dalbergia group as a whole. One of the challenges of conservation genetics is the diversity of species and situations that require an improved evidence base. Our research will explore the use of new genomics methods to create a knowledge resource of broad applicability in the rosewoods."

When people hear about CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) they may think of whales, elephants, tigers, or giant pandas. However, a number of tree species are endangered from international trade and, in some cases, illegal logging. Rosewood is the world’s most trafficked wild product, according to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, accounting for a third of all seizures by value, more than elephant ivory, pangolins, rhino horn, lions and tigers put together. It is traditionally used for elite, classic-style “hongmu” furniture in China, with a massive increase in demand from China’s fast-growing middle class. Forests in south-east Asia and elsewhere have been targeted for illegal logging and trade of rosewood.


In 2017 all species in the genus Dalbergia (main source of rosewood) were placed on Appendix II of CITES. Although this places controls on export of Dalbergia species, illegal logging continues and complementary conservation actions are urgently needed. Our project will help to secure the genetic resources of three of these species from south-east Asia through a combination of research and community involvement. - Dr David Boshier


The Darwin Initiative is a grants scheme that helps to protect biodiversity and the natural environment around the globe. Many of the applications reflect the UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan commitments to protect the marine environment, to secure the benefits of biodiversity for the poorest communities, and to help prevent the extinction of species. The fund is administered by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and uses the UK Government’s Official Development Assistance.