Antonie van Leeuwenhoek

, Volume 112, Issue 1, pp 31–46 | Cite as

Actinorhizal trees and shrubs from Africa: distribution, conservation and uses

  • Ana I. Ribeiro-BarrosEmail author
  • Sílvia Catarino
  • Isabel Moura
  • José C. Ramalho
  • Maria M. Romeiras
  • Faten Ghodhbane-Gtari


Actinorhizal plants are a group of perennial dicotyledonous angiosperms, comprised of more than 200 species, most of which can establish root-nodule symbiosis with the nitrogen fixing actinobacteria of the genus Frankia. They are key providers of fundamental goods and services and can give a major contribution to mitigate the combined effects of climate changes, human population growth and loss of biodiversity. This aspect is particularly relevant for the developing economies of many African countries, which are highly exposed to climate and anthropogenic disturbances. In this work we have analyzed the distribution, conservation and uses of actinorhizal species native to or introduced in Africa. A total of 42 taxa distributed over six botanical families (Betulaceae, Casuarinaceae, Myricaceae, Elaeagnaceae, Rhamnaceae and Coriariaceae) were identified. The vast majority is able to thrive under a range of diverse environments and has multiple ecological and economic potential. More than half of the identified species belong to the genus Morella (Myricaceae), most of them native to Middle, Eastern and Southern Africa. Although the information about the conservation status and uses of Morella spp. is largely incomplete, the available data is indicative of their potential in e.g. forestry and agroforestry, food and medicine. Therefore, efforts should be made to upgrade actinorhizal research in Africa towards the sustainable use of biodiversity at the service of local (bio)economies.


Actinorhizal plants Africa Conservation Distribution Ecosystem goods and services 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Authors contribution

AIR-B and MMR conceived the idea. SC and IM performed data retrieval and prepared the database. AIR-B, JCR, MMR, and FG-G analyzed data. AIR-B wrote the paper and all the other authors revised the MS thoroughly.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


This work was supported by national funds from Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia through the research units UID/AGR/04129/2013 (LEAF) and UID/GEO/04035/2013 (GeoBioTec).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana I. Ribeiro-Barros
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Sílvia Catarino
    • 1
  • Isabel Moura
    • 1
  • José C. Ramalho
    • 1
    • 2
  • Maria M. Romeiras
    • 1
  • Faten Ghodhbane-Gtari
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Plant-Environment Interactions and Biodiversity Lab (PlantStress&Biodiversity), Linking Landscape, Environment, Agriculture and Food (LEAF), Instituto Superior de Agronomia (ISA)Universidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.GeoBioTec, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia (FCT)Universidade NOVA de Lisboa (UNL)Monte de CaparicaPortugal
  3. 3.Laboratoire Microorganismes et Biomolécules Actives, Faculté des Sciences de TunisUniversité Tunis El ManarTunisTunisia
  4. 4.ISBSTUniversité La ManoubaManoubaTunisia

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