Agroforestry Species Switchboard 2.0: a synthesis of information sources to support tree research and development activities

Agroforestry Species Switchboard 2.0: a synthesis of information sources to support tree research and development activities

Suggested citation: Kindt R, John I, Ordonez J, Dawson I, Lillesø J-P B, Muchugi A, Graudal L, Jamnadass R. 2019. Agroforestry Species Switchboard: a synthesis of information sources to support tree research and development activities. Version 2.0. World Agroforestry Centre, Nairobi, Kenya.

The Agroforestry Species Switchboard is available at this URL:

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 plantings and wider restoration initiatives, but it also contains information on a much wider range of organisms. Version 2.0 of the Switchboard documents the presence of a total of 172,395 plant species, and 3,979 taxa at infraspecific level, across 35 web-based information sources. When available, hyperlinks to selected taxa in particular information sources are provided. In total, Version 2.0 of the Switchboard provides 307,404 and 6,159 hyperlinks at species and infraspecific levels, respectively. The Switchboard also provides links to check on the correct nomenclature of particular species. Within ICRAF, the Switchboard cross-links our various databases by establishing a centralised naming system. A list and brief descriptions of the 36 associated information sources that can be accessed through the Switchboard are given in the following sections (in order of the listing of information sources in the Switchboard).

Compared to the previous versions of the Switchboard, Version 2.0 has been visually reformatted to provide easier understanding of information and to present data in a format more suitable for handheld digital devices such as smartphones and tablets. Version 2.0 also contains links to new databases, entries for a much wider range of species and, for the first time, references to infraspecific taxa. Illustrations of the format and content of the Switchboard are given in Figures 1 to 3.
ICRAF databases referred to by the Switchboard, 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 (published first in the 1990s and 2000s). Information on ecology, uses, propagation, management, local names and botanical names is included.
  • 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.
  • Tree Functional Attributes and Ecological Database ( This database provides information on the properties and attributes of trees. 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.

Other portals and databases referred to by the Switchboard, with links to individual species

(The date when hyperlinks were established is given in italics.)

  • African Orphan Crops Consortium (AOCC;; August 2018). AOCC’s goal is to sequence, assemble, annotate and publish in open-access databases the genomes of 101 traditional African food crops to support improvements in their production, through linking with plant breeders. This will help provide long lasting solutions for Africa’s nutritional security.
  • Árboles de Centroamérica (OFI-CATIE;; July 2018; in Spanish). This sourcebook provides factsheets for 204 indigenous Mesoamerican tree species. It describes species’ biologies and uses across the full spectrum of on-farm planting, ecological restoration and natural regeneration situations.
  • Ecocrop (FAO;; August 2018). This database provides descriptions, including climate and soil requirements and uses, for more than 2,500 plant species.
  • eHALOPH (University of Sussex;; July 2018; new database for Switchboard Version 2.0). This database provides descriptions of halophytes (salt tolerant plants), including the 1,554 species that were included in James Aronson’s 1989 publication HALOPH: a data base of salt tolerant plants of the world.
  • Especies para restauración (IUCN;; August 2018; in Spanish [translate]). 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;; August 2018). For 107 species, the website provides a short species description, distribution maps and technical guidelines for genetic conservation and use.
  • Feedipedia (INRA, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO;; July 2018; new database for Switchboard Version 2.0). This is an open-access information system on animal feed resources. It provides information on the nature, occurrence, chemical composition, nutritional value and safe use of nearly 1,400 livestock feeds globally.
  • GRIN-Global World Economic Plants (USDA;; July 2018; new database for Switchboard Version 2.0). Species listed are those that were retrieved by a specialised query on World Economic Plants among the GRIN-Global Taxonomy for Plants.
  • MAPFORGEN (LAFORGEN;; August 2018; 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;; August 2018). This database provides information on fruit and plant uses, and distributions and origins, for over 1,200 fruit species from North and South America.
  • NewCROP Database (Purdue University;; August 2018). 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;; August 2018). This database, constructed to optimise the application of predominantly indigenous plants as pesticides in Africa, provides factsheets on use.
  • Pacific Island Agroforestry Species (AGROFORESTRY.NET;; August 2018). Species-specific chapters of a 2006 publication covering the ecology, economics and culture of Pacific Island agroforestry can be downloaded individually.
  • PROTA4U (PROTA;; August 2018) 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, formerly the Danida Forest Seed Centre];; August 2018). These species-specific leaflets provide short descriptions of tropical trees, with particular emphasis on seed issues, including appropriate methods for seed harvest, treatment, storage and sowing.
  • SoFT (CSIRO, CIAT and ILRI;; August 2018). The Selection of Forages for the Tropics (SoFT) tool provides information on 180 forage species, including on plants’ agronomy, feed value, production potential and seed production.
  • The tropiTree Database (JHI and ICRAF;; August 2018). 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;; August 2018). 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;; August 2018). These databases provide information on nutrient content (minerals, vitamins, etc.) for more than 8,000 different food items.
  • Useful Tropical Plants Database (; August 2018). This database contains information on the edible, medicinal and many other uses of more than 10,000 plants that can be grown in tropical regions.

Portals specific to potentially invasive species referred to by the Switchboard, with links to individual species

(The date when hyperlinks were established is given in italics.)

  • CABI Invasive Species Compendium (CABI;; August 2018). This compendium provides information on invasive organisms globally, including uses, means of dispersal, risks, invasiveness impacts and means of control.
  • Global Invasive Species Database (IUCN;; August 2018). This database was developed and is managed by the Invasive Species Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. It provides information about alien and invasive species, including plants, which negatively impact native biodiversity and natural areas.
  • Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species (IUCN;; March 2019). GRIIS hosted by the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) compiles annotated and verified country-wise inventories of introduced and invasive species. Development and population of the GRIIS was undertaken by the ISSG within the framework of activities of the Information Synthesis and Assessment Working Group of the Global Invasive Alien Species Information Partnership. Note that links included in the current version of the Switchboard only document the presence in the GRIIS of species listed in the other 35 information sources.

(Check here for ICRAF’s Invasive Alien Species Policy.)

Other databases referred to by the Switchboard, spreadsheets containing individual species

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

  • Extrafloral Nectaries (Marjorie Weber, Laura Porturas and Kathy Keeler;; July 2018; new database for Switchboard Version 2.0). The World List of Plants with Extrafloral Nectaries includes plants with extranuptial nectaries, circumfloral nectaries, postfloral nectaries and foliar nectaries. More than 4,000 angiosperms species are currently indicated to have extrafloral nectaries.
  • Global Species Matrix (Eric Toensmeier;; July 2018; new database for Switchboard Version 2.0). This matrix of around 700 plant entries, which includes information on plants’ origins, uses and management practices, is a searchable Excel file that was published as an electronic supplement to Appendix A of The Carbon Farming Solution, concerned with practical solutions to climate change.
  • Global Wood Density Database (CNRS;; August 2018). This database provides information on wood densities of (mostly tropical) trees.
  • GlobalTreeSearch (BGCI;; Version 1.2; July 2018; new database for Switchboard Version 2.0). This database includes information on more than 60,000 tree species, including their country distributions. It can be used to discover all tree species known in a country.
  • TRY Database (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry;; Version 4.1; August 2018). This database provides information on a wide range of traits (morphological, phenological, etc.) for around 150,000 plant taxa. It currently contains around 6.9 million trait records.

The Switchboard also provides hyperlinks to the additional seventeen portals/databases described below. Whether or not a particular species in the Switchboard is present in each of these has however not been established (i.e. cross-referencing has not been undertaken). Users can however 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; This integrates and critically evaluates information from multiple sources for the flora of the Euro-Mediterranean region. Sources include the Flora Europaea, the Med-Checklist and the Flora of Macaronesia.
  • Genesys ( This is a global portal to information about plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. It is a gateway through which germplasm accessions held by genebanks around the world can be 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. Information includes on taxonomies, conservation statuses and distributions for plants, fungi and animals evaluated against IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria.
  • JSTOR Plant Science compilation ( This database provides a quick view of all the resources in the JSTOR database related to a particular plant.
  • Plants of the World online (Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew;; new database for Switchboard Version 2.0). This portal was launched in March 2017 with a focus on key tropical African Floras - Flora Zambesiaca, Flora of West Tropical Africa and Flora of Tropical East Africa specifically. The aim of the portal is to enable users to access information on all the world’s known seed-bearing plants by 2020.
  • PlantSearch (BGCI; This is a global database of living plant, seed and tissue collections hosted by Botanic Gardens Conservation International.
  • PROTA4U (PROTA; This database is listed above under “Other portals and databases”, but the links given above do not include to starterkits. These are additional records containing non-validated information obtained from PROTA’s supporting databases and mined from the internet. 
  • E-PROSEA (PROSEA; 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. The web location of the database was recently changed and species-specific links have therefore not yet been established with the Switchboardavailable under the other databases.
  • 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, aiming to be comprehensive for Vascular plants and Bryophytes.
  • The PLANTS database (USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service;; new database for Switchboard version 2.0). This database provides standardised information about the vascular plants, mosses, liverworts, hornworts and lichens of the USA and its territories.
  • Tropicos (Missouri Botanic Garden; This information source contains nomenclatural, bibliographic and specimen data accumulated over several decades in the Missouri Botanic Garden’s electronic databases.
  • 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 the USDA National Plant Germplasm System more widely.

Which species are included in the Switchboard?

The list of species in Version 2.0 of the Switchboard is a compilation of all those recorded in the 35 main information sources indicated above. As already noted, the Switchboard is therefore not restricted to woody tree and shrub species, although these taxa are ICRAF’s primary concern and the Switchboard’s name reflects this.

We excluded links for plant names provided only at the genus level or where we judged that they were vernacular names (the list of 1343 excluded links with plant and database names is available here).

Detailed information on species notation

Plants are listed in the Agroforestry Species Switchboard according to their currently accepted botanical name. To ensure this nomenclature was adopted, we first checked a list of all unique plant names against The Plant List (TPL) version 1.1 with the Taxonstand package (version 2.1; function Taxonstand::TPL; Cayuela et al. 2012; scripts run from 18 to 20 September 2018). Species that could be classified by this process into the categories of accepted, synonym or unresolved were retained. For the accepted name in the Switchboard, we used the new plant name (with details provided in the fields of New.Genus, New.Hybrid.marker, New.Species, New.Infraspecific.rank, New.Infraspecific, New.Authority, New.ID and New.Taxonomic.status). Where TPL indicated that the species was a hybrid, then we used a species notation such as Abies × borisii-regis in the Switchboard.

Species with names that could not be resolved via TPL and that were not able to be manually classified as being at genus level (see above) were checked using the Taxonomic Name Resolution Service (TNRS;; Boyle et al. 2013; checked on 26 September 2018). Where the submitted names were only matched marginally by the TNRS, we manually compared the submitted and matched names on a species-by-species basis, sometimes retaining the original name and sometimes retaining the matched name (the notations on sources of plant names indicate which choice was made). In most situations where the original name was listed in the GlobalTreeSearch database (GTS;; Beech et al. 2017), we maintained the original name and then listed GTS as the source of confirmation for the plant name. In situations where a species was not matched well by TNRS or GTS, we did not include a source of confirmation of nomenclature after the plant name (see below).

Information on the species names that were classified as synonyms by TPL or TNRS, compared with the nomenclature suggested by these sources, is available here.

Information in the Switchboard on sources of plant names

Notations in the Switchboard given after the plant name provide the authority (if available from the consulted source) and the basis of the confirmation of the name (where TPL = The Plant List; TNRS = Taxonomic Name Resolution Service; GTS = GlobalTreeSearch).

Please be aware that the spelling and status (current or synonym) of plant names is a dynamically evolving field. We encourage users to recheck the current status of a species against The Plant List, Tropicos, Plants of the World online 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) and the Provision of Adequate Tree Seed Portfolio in Ethiopia (PATSPO, financed by the Norwegian International Climate and Forest Initiative)

Any comments concerning the Switchboard can be sent to: