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

Ana I. Ribeiro-Barros, Sílvia Catarino, Isabel Moura, José C. Ramalho, Maria M. Romeiras, Faten Ghodhbane-Gtari

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-46
Number of pages16
JournalAntonie van Leeuwenhoek
Issue number1(SI)
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2019


  • Actinorhizal plants
  • Africa
  • Conservation
  • Distribution
  • Ecosystem goods and services


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