Agroforestry Species Switchboard 1.4: a synthesis of information sources to support tree research and development activities

Agroforestry Species Switchboard 1.4: a synthesis of information sources to support tree research and development activities

Suggested citation: Kindt R, John I, Ordonez J, Smith E, Orwa C, Mosoti B, Chege J, Dawson I, Harja D, Kehlenbeck K, Luedeling E, Lillesø J-P B, Muchugi A, Munjuga M, Mwanzia L, Sinclair F, Graudal L, Jamnadass R. 2017. Agroforestry Species Switchboard: a synthesis of information sources to support tree research and development activities. Version 1.4. World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi, Kenya.


The Agroforestry Species Switchboard

The Agroforestry Species Switchboard is a “one-stop-shop” to retrieve data about a particular plant species across a wide range of information sources. Its particular objective is to provide information that supports research on trees and tree-based development activities such as agroforestry planting and wider restoration initiatives. Version 1.4 of the Switchboard documents the presence of a total of 30,542 plant species (38,466 species including synonyms) across 30 web-based information sources. When available, hyperlinks to selected species in particular information sources are provided. In total, Version 1.4 of the switchboard provides 240,157 hyperlinks at species level. The Switchboard also provides links to check on the correct spelling of particular species, and on synonyms and current names (see more below). Within ICRAF, the Switchboard cross-links our various databases by establishing a centralised naming system. A list and brief description of the 30 associated information sources that can be accessed through the Switchboard is given below (in order of listing in the Switchboard).

 ICRAF databases, with links to individual species

  • Agroforestree Database ( This database provides information on the management, use and ecology of over 600 tree species which can be used in agroforestry systems globally. It is a good starting point for understanding more about many cultivated trees in smallholders’ farms.
  • Tree Seed Suppliers Directory ( This directory provides the most extensive available compiled information on global suppliers of seed and microsymbionts for over 5,000 tree and shrub species.
  • African Wood Density Database ( This database provides air-dry wood density data for over 900 indigenous and exotic tree species found in Africa. It was developed in parallel with the Global Wood Density Database (see below).
  • RELMA-ICRAF Useful Trees ( These species-based factsheets provide information on the useful trees and shrubs of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, assembled as part of a series of Regional Land Management Unit (RELMA)-ICRAF publications. Information on ecology, uses, propagation, management, local names and botanical names is included.
  • Tree Functional Attributes and Ecological Database ( This database provides information on the properties and attributes of trees, usually at species level. It includes information on geographic distributions, ecological requirements, growth rates, uses and product value chains.
  • Useful Tree Species for Africa Map (produced with the University of Copenhagen [Forest and Landscape Denmark]; This interactive vegetation map tool enables the selection of useful tree species for planting at given locations anywhere in Africa using Google Earth for visualisation purposes. The Switchboard indicates which species are listed in this tool.
  • vegetationmap4africa (produced with the University of Copenhagen; This map tool shows the distribution of 1,022 plant species across Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia using Google Earth, based on a high resolution potential natural vegetation map of eastern and southern Africa. It can be used to help select tree species for planting at given locations in mapped countries.
  • Genetic Resources Unit Database ( This database indicates accessions of trees and shrubs that are conserved and/or supplied for research purposes by ICRAF’s Genetic Resources Unit.

Other portals and databases, with hyperlinks to individual species

(The date of hyperlink establishment is given in italics.)

  • African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC;; April 2017). Species descriptions are provided for 101 economically important but also socio-culturally relevant crop and tree species grown in Africa. To prioritize these crops, an Africa-centric survey was conducted with participation from African plant breeders, sociologists, anthropologists, nutritionists, policy makers, scientists, farmers, government representatives, universities and various other stakeholders.
  • Árboles de Centroamérica (OFI-CATIE;; April 2013; in Spanish). This sourcebook provides species factsheets for 204 indigenous Mesoamerican tree species. It describes species biology and tree uses across the full spectrum of on-farm planting, ecological restoration and natural regeneration situations.
  • CABI Invasive Species Compendium (CABI;; July 2014). This compendium provides information on invasive organisms globally, including uses, means of dispersal, risks, invasiveness impacts and means of control.
  • Ecocrop (FAO;; April 2013). This database provides descriptions, including climate and soil requirements and uses, for more than 2,500 plant species.
  • E-PROSEA (PROSEA;; April 2013). The Plant Resources of South-East Asia online database (E-PROSEA) provides information on the plant resources of South-East Asia for more than 6,000 taxa, including on uses, botany, ecology, genetic resources and available literature.
  • Especies para restauración (IUCN;; February 2016; in Spanish). This database provides factsheets on mostly Mesoamerican plant species with information including botanical and local names, distributions, habitats, and propagation and silvicultural methods, with a view to supporting restoration initiatives.
  • EUFORGEN (European forest Genetic Resources Programme;; March 2017). For 107 species, the website provides a short species description, distribution maps and technical guidelines for genetic conservation and use.
  • Global Invasive Species Database (IUCN;; January 2017). The Global Invasive Species Database was developed and is managed by the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG). Links are provided to plant (Plantae) species.   
  • MAPFORGEN (LAFORGEN;; June 2014; in Spanish and English). This atlas for the conservation of forest genetic resources provides modelled distribution maps that indicate the conservation status of 100 socio-economically important tree and shrub species indigenous to Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • New World Fruits Database (Bioversity International;; March 2017). This database provides information (descriptions and maps) for 1257 fruit species suitable to North or South America.
  • NewCROP Database (Purdue University;; January 2017). The NewCROP (New Crops Resource Online Program) database is an information-rich site related to crop plants that was developed by the Purdue University Center for New Crops and Plant Products.
  • OPTIONs Pesticidal Plants Database (OPTIONs;; December 2014). This database on optimising the potential of predominantly indigenous plants as pesticides in Africa provides factsheets on use.
  • Pacific Island Agroforestry Species (AGROFORESTRY.NET;; January 2017). Species-specific chapters of a book on Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry: Ecological, Economic, and Cultural Renewal can be downloaded individually.
  • PROTA4U (PROTA;; April 2013) The Plant Resources of Tropical Africa online database (PROTA4U) provides information on the plant resources of Tropical Africa, including on uses, botany, ecology, genetic resources and available literature.
  • Seed Leaflets (University of Copenhagen [Forest and Landscape Denmark and formerly Danida Forest Seed Centre];; November 2014). Species-specific leaflets on tropical trees provide short descriptions with particular emphasis on seed issues including harvest, treatment, storage and sowing.
  • SoFT (CSIRO, CIAT and ILRI;; November 2012). The Selection of Forages for the Tropics (SoFT) tool provides information on 180 forage species, including on agronomy, feed value, production potential and seed production.
  • The tropiTree Database (JHI and ICRAF;; January 2015). The Tropical Tree Expressed Transcripts, SSR Markers and Primer Pairs (tropiTree) Database provides assembled expressed transcripts from an RNA-seq study of a set of 24 important tropical trees, along with markers designed to amplify microsatellites discovered within sequences.
  • The Wood Database (Eric Meier;; June 2016). The database provides profiles for a range of several hundred woods used globally, including information on specific gravity, modulus of rupture, shrinkage, grain and workability.
  • USDA Food Composition Databases (USDA;; February 2016). These databases provide information on nutrient content (minerals, vitamins, etc.) for more than 8,000 different food items.
  • Useful Tropical Plants (; January 2017). The Useful Tropical Plants Database contains information on the edible, medicinal and many other uses of several thousand plants that can be grown in tropical regions. It is very much a work in progress, with new records being entered and older records being updated on a regular basis.


Other databases, spreadsheets containing individual species

(The date of establishment of presence or absence in each database is given in italics.)

The Switchboard also provides hyperlinks to the additional thirteen portals/databases below. Whether or not a particular species on the Switchboard is present in each of these has however not been established (i.e. cross-referencing has not been undertaken). Users can search for the presence or absence of a particular species themselves.

  • eFloras (Missouri Botanic Garden; This is an online collection of various national flora.
  • EOL (Smithsonian Institution and others; The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) compiled from existing databases and contributors aims to document all life on Earth.
  • ePIC (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; The Electronic Plant Information Centre (ePIC) is a major project to bring together all of Kew's digitised information about plants.
  • Euro+Med PlantBase (Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem; The Euro+Med Plantbase integrates and critically evaluates information from Flora Europaea, Med-Checklist, the Flora of Macaronesia, and from regional and national floras and checklists from the area as well as additional taxonomic and floristic literature.
  • Genesys ( GENESYS is a global portal to information about Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA). It is a gateway from which germplasm accessions from genebanks around the world can be easily found and ordered.
  • Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF; This is the biggest biodiversity database available on the internet.
  • IUCN Red list (IUCN; This database provides an extract of the information compiled for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ on taxonomic, conservation status and distribution information on plants, fungi and animals that have been globally evaluated using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria.
  • JSTOR Plant Science compilation ( This database allows to quickly view all the resources in the JSTOR database related to a particular plant name or taxon
  • PlantSearch (BGCI; This is a global database of living plant, seed and tissue collections hosted by Botanic Gardens Conservation International.
  • Species+ (UNEP and WCMC; This database includes information on all species that are listed in the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
  • The Plant List (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanic Garden; The Plant List is a working list of all known plant species.
  • Tropicos (Missouri Botanic Garden; This information source contains all of the nomenclatural, bibliographic and specimen data accumulated in Missouri Botanic Garden’s electronic databases over the past 30 years.
  • USDA National Plant Germplasm System ( This site allows query of the USDA National Plant Germplasm System database for germplasm and taxonomy information. The site also provides access to USDA National Plant Germplasm System more widely.


The above nine portals/databases also provide hyperlinks to a series of other information sources not included in the Switchboard, including the below.

Which species are included in the Switchboard?

 The list of species in the Agroforestry Species Switchboard is all those listed in the 30 main information sources indicated above. The Switchboard is therefore not restricted to woody tree and shrub species, despite these taxa being ICRAF’s primary interest. Subspecies, varieties and crosses between species have been excluded, as has information provided only at the genus level.

Detailed information on species notation

Species are listed in the Agroforestry Species Switchboard according to their currently accepted botanical name. To ensure this, we revised given species names for spelling errors and against synonyms as described in a selection of ICRAF databases. Where differences in spellings were noted in the compilation of version 1.0 of the Switchboard we used those spellings implemented by Tropicos (see above). Where differences between current names and synonyms were noted (for example, when different current names were listed), notations were checked against The Plant List (see above). The current name with the highest confidence level ( was then adopted (if the confidence level was the same for two current names, the original name was kept in the switchboard). When adding links to new databases for later versions of the Switchboard, we first checked spellings and current species names with the Taxonomic Name Resolution Service (TNRS; Where differences were noted between current names according to TNRS and those indicated in version 1.0 of the Switchboard, we resolved using The Plant List.

Please be aware that the spelling and status (current or synonym) of names in the Agroforestry Species Switchboard have not been systematically rechecked for all plant species. It is possible that for some species synonyms are listed separately from current names. We encourage users to recheck the current status of a species against The Plant List, Tropicos or TNRS.


Development of the switchboard was made possible thanks to support from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA; supported by the CGIAR Fund Donors)

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