Computer vision-based wood identification has been successfully applied to recognize tree species using digital images of wood sections or surfaces. However, this image-to-species approach can only recognize a limited number of species due to two main reasons: 1) the lack of a good reference database requiring high-quality standardized images from multiple individuals of hundreds or even thousands of traded timber species, and 2) species not included in the reference database cannot be identified without expert knowledge. Another bottleneck is that the feature extraction process used by these species recognition approaches is a black box, thereby creating a discrepancy between machine learning features and wood anatomical features. This discrepancy prevents wood anatomists from understanding how these machine-learning algorithms work. Here, we survey currently existing methods used in feature extraction, classification, and deep learning methods applied in wood identification along with their pitfalls and opportunities. As an example of how the field could move forward, we launch the idea of building an image-to-features-to-species identification approach based on microscopic wood images as well as text files comprising wood anatomical descriptions. If we can manage machine learning-based algorithms to recognize the main wood anatomical traits that experts use to identify species in a (semi-)automated way, this would boost wood identification in two ways: (1) extensive reference databases for each species would become less crucial as the databases are ordered at the trait level, (2) timber identification would become more feasible for species that have not yet been included in the reference database as long as wood anatomical descriptions are available.

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IAWA Journal

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Staff publications

He, Xin, Pelt, Daniël M., Gao, JingRan, Gravendeel, B., Zhu, PeiQi, Chen, SongYang, … Lens, F. (2024). Machine learning-based wood anatomy identification: towards anatomical feature recognition. IAWA Journal, 2024, 1–19. doi:10.1163/22941932-bja10157