How to use the AWES Native Agroforestry Species Database

AWES Native Agroforestry Species Database Help Page

Check out the video below to learn how to use AWES’ Native Agroforestry Species Database.



Below is a list and description of all variables included in the Native Tree Finder:


  • Natural Region: This variable can be used to select species that are native to each of the four natural regions that make up Alberta’s agricultural land-base — boreal forest, foothills, aspen parkland, and grasslands. A unique mix of species is found in each of these regions due to differing soils, landform features, and climate. To achieve the greatest biodiversity value and resilience, whenever possible agroforestry projects should attempt to mimic the species composition and structure of forests within their natural region. Natural regions can be further broken down into subregions. How to find your natural region.


  • Plant Type: Plant type refers to the general role of the tree or shrub within the forest. Small shrubs and tall shrubs form the lower and middle forest canopy layers, respectively. Pioneer (nurse) trees are quick to colonize new sites, able to withstand exposed conditions, and fast growing. Pioneer trees often create favourable conditions that ‘nurse’ the growth of long-lived trees. Long-lived trees often grow through the shrub and pioneer tree canopies to form a long-lasting ‘climax’ forest.” Vines require the support of other trees or shrubs to grow.


  • Max Height (m), Max Width (m): This variable provides a range for the maximum size the tree or shrub will grow to in ideal conditions.


  • Growth Rate (m): This variable includes the relative growth rates of different species. These growth rates are relative to each other, and not based on absolute numbers.


  • Primary Pollination Strategy: This variable can be used to select species that depend primarily on either animals (pollinators) or wind for pollination. If the goal is to provide high quality pollinator habitat, ensure that a diversity of animal pollinator species are included as these species provide better resources (pollen and nectar) for pollinators.


  • Flower period: Flower period refers to the months in which the species is typically in bloom. When designing habitat for pollinators, include a diversity of animal pollinated species with overlapping bloom periods throughout the growing season. To identify which species are animal pollinated, refer to the ‘Traits’ variable.


  • Edible fruit/nut: This variable can be used to select species that produce fruits/nuts that can be eaten safely by humans, assuming clean and appropriate harvesting and preparation methods have been followed. Such methods are beyond the scope of this database; therefore refer to other sources (e.g. Wild Edible Berries of Alberta or Edible & Medicinal Plants of Canada) before deciding on whether to ingest any plant parts. AWES assumes no responsibility for injury due to such ingestion.


  • Soil Texture: This variable can be used to select species that are adapted to sandy, loamy (i.e. balanced), or clayey soils.


  • Moisture Tolerance: This variable can be used to select species that are adapted to different moisture regimes. Dry soils are more common in areas with some or all of the following characteristics: low precipitation, high proportions of sand (fast drainage), south or west aspects, higher elevations, and no existing tree cover. Moist soils are more common in areas with some or all of the following characteristics (inverse to dry soils): high precipitation, high proportions of clay (poor drainage), north or east facing aspects, lower elevations, and existing tree cover. Moist soils may be flooded occasionally, but this flooding is almost always only short duration (less than a week) and during the dormant season (before leaf budding). In contrast, wet soils typically flood annually, and sometimes this flooding extends well into the growing season.


  • Exposure: This variable can be used to select species that are adapted to sunny, partially shady (sunny for at least two hours each day), and fully shady sites.


  • Traits: This variable can be used to select species that have one or multiple traits that are often relevant for agroforestry projects. Nitrogen fixation refers to species that form associations with soil bacteria that transform N2 gas into plant-available nitrogen. Spreads fast refers to species that colonize an area relatively quickly by seed or roots. Salt tolerant refers to species that are adapted to soils with relatively high salinity. Suckering refers to species that can grow shoots from their roots.



  • Fruit/seeds available: Indicates which season(s) the fruits or seeds of the species are available for consumption for wildlife or humans. High quality bird habitat often has fruit/seeds available throughout the year.


  • Forage value: Indicates the palatability and nutritional quality of the species’ foliage, branches, and bark for livestock. Note that different species or breeds of livestock have different forage preferences, and as well that different stages of plant growth may have different forage value. Browsing wildlife (e.g. deer, moose) generally have similar forage preferences to livestock, but are adapted to eat a greater diversity and proportion of tree and shrub species.


  • Drainage: Refers to how quickly water passes through soil. Water moves quickly through well-drained soils, and is retained for longer in poor-drained soils.


  • Hardiness Zone: Refers to the relative harshness of the climate that the species is adapted to, according to Natural Resources Canada’s classification scheme. Lower numbers and earlier letters (closer to ‘a’) imply a harsher climate, while higher numbers and later letters imply a milder climate.


  • Carbon sequestration potential (kg/tree): Refers to the kilograms of carbon that a mature tree or shrub can remove from the atmosphere. These amounts have been assessed for trees and shrubs in the Canadian prairies. Values will vary based on site and climate conditions, and the value provided represents the maximum total sequestration possible per tree.


If you would like to provide additional photos or information of a particular species, please email to for review. We value your input!