Digital Researcher Featured Plant Cuttings

Plant Resources III: All the world’s trees in one place

If the POWO is not enough plant database for you [see my previous post], there is also a new database specifically for the world’s trees*. Called GlobalTreeSearch, it is hosted by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), and proudly claims to be the ‘first complete global database of tree species and country distributions’ [Beech et al., 2017].

Arbre du Ténéré in 1961.
Arbre du Ténéré in 1961. Image: Michel Mazeau / Wikipedia

The resource lists 60,065 tree species – the number of tree species currently known to science **, ‘based on comprehensive analysis of published data sources and expert input’ (this figure represents 20% of the entirety of all angiosperm and gymnosperm species). Although the information databased for each species is not as comprehensive as that held for plants by POWO, GlobalTreeSearch allows users to search the 60,000+ entries by species names and country distributions, to find out the geographical distribution of a tree species, and discover all tree species found in a country.

The intention is that GlobalTreeSearch will be a tool for monitoring and managing tree species diversity, forests, and carbon stocks on a global, regional, and/or national level, the better to conserve these precious natural resources. GlobalTreeSearch will also serve as the basis of the Global Tree Assessment, which aims to assess the conservation status of all of the world’s tree species by 2020.

It will be interesting to see whether Plants of the World Online or GlobalTreeSearch achieve their ambitious goals first, and if both can do so by 2020… No pressure, then.

* I know you’re curious. For this database a tree is defined as ‘a woody plant with usually a single stem growing to a height of at least two metres, or, if multi-stemmed, then at least one vertical stem five centimetres in diameter at breast height’.

** Of an estimated 80,000 tree species.

[Ed. – one of the nicest aspects of the Beech et al. paper (and what a great first author’s name for a tree database article!) is the Results section. At a mere 286 words it is a model of succinctness, and something to which we all can aspire in our own papers. After all, the Results section of a scientific paper should be one of the shortest sections of all.]

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