CWR In Situ Strategy Helpdesk

Data sources

Distribution data

Online resources

Some key sources of web accessible distribution data are listed below with a brief description of the scope of the data and how to access them.

Note that the distribution data available via these sources are not necessarily 100 percent reliable as they are based on a variety of sources of recorded occurrences. Some of the sources may be out of date or otherwise unreliable (e.g., lacking coordinates or detailed location data, or taxa may have been misidentified). Occurrence records can only be verified by carrying out field visits. 

Also note that occurrence records obtained from more than one information source may lead to some records being duplicated. Therefore, the data must be carefully checked and 'cleaned' to remove any duplicate records.

CWRIS (Crop Wild Relative Information System) –

CWRIS is a searchable database of crop species and their wild relatives and an information portal, currently providing access to data related to taxa in the Crop Wild Relative Catalogue for Europe and the Mediterranean. The taxonomic back-bone to the Catalogue was provided by Euro+Med PlantBase ( version August 2005*.  The Catalogue provides occurrence records according to geographic boundaries, not political boundaries.  Therefore, in cases where a country comprises more than one distinct geographical boundary (e.g., Turkey and Turkey-in-Europe), the taxon records are associated with each geographical unit individually.  Other examples include islands such as the Azores and Madeira (Portugal), and the Canary Islands (Spain)—each island in these groups has a separate entry in the database.

See for further information about CWRIS and the Crop Wild Relative Catalogue for Europe and the Mediterranean.

CWRIS provides links to GBIF, GRIN and several other data sources; therefore, it is a useful starting point for taxon searches. To access data via CWRIS:

  • Use the search facility to obtain data on your taxon of interest
  • By clicking on the link to the selected taxon, you will see a list of geographic occurrences
  • Use the external links provided to search for more detailed distribution data

*Note that as of October 2009 (updated February 2011), revised taxonomic and distribution data for most families contained in Euro+Med PlantBase are now available directly from: For the families that have been updated, it is recommended that data are checked directly from this source as the CWR Catalogue for Europe and the Mediterranean available via CWRIS has not yet been updated with the revised data set.

GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility) –

GBIF is currently one of the most useful online information systems for accessing taxon distribution data. GBIF facilitates the digitization and global dissemination of primary biodiversity data (e.g., data from natural history collections, library materials and databases). GBIF taxon searches can be limited to the country(ies) of interest, or global data can be downloaded and the necessary records extracted. To access data via GBIF:

  • Use the search facility to find data on your taxon of interest
  • When you click on the taxon link provided, you will be asked to accept the terms of the GBIF user license agreement. Click on 'Accept terms'
  • You will then be provided with a number of links to data related to your taxon. Follow these links to find the information needed. For example, click on 'occurrences' to find a list of recorded occurrences of the taxon (note that the map function will not show distribution data unless there are coordinates available)
  • To save a list of the occurrences, you can download the results as a MS Excel spreadsheet or you can choose tab- and comma-delimited text format
  • Before you download the data, you can limit the fields included by unchecking the fields that are not needed. However, it is advisable to download all data, then delete or hide those fields that are not needed, in case the data may be of use at a later date

GRIN Taxonomy for Plants –

GRIN taxonomic data provide the structure and nomenclature for accessions of the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS), part of the National Genetic Resources Program (NGRP) of the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Agricultural Research Service (ARS). In GRIN Taxonomy for Plants, all families and genera of vascular plants and over 40,000 species from throughout the world are represented, especially economic plants and their relatives. Information on scientific and common names, classification, distribution, references and economic impacts are provided.

GRIN lists the countries and subnational units (where applicable) for which taxon occurrence records exist. The records are grouped into areas and regions in accordance with the standard publication World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions (Hollis and Brummitt, 1992), which divides the terrestrial world into nine areas: Africa, Antarctic, Asia-Temperate, Asia-Tropical, Australasia, Europe, Northern America, Pacific, and Southern America.

Data in GRIN Taxonomy can be searched online or downloaded.

Onine searches: To access distribution data via GRIN, click on the 'queries' link in the menu bar to search for information on your taxon of interest. If you want to restrict your search to a specific region or country, use the 'advanced queries – species data, multiple criteria' option. For example, to find taxa within the genus Beta that are native to Europe, enter 'Beta' in 'genus or species name' and select 'continent': 'Europe'.

Data downloads: GRIN Taxonomy data can be downloaded to your hard drive and searched using a suitable database. To do this, click on the 'downloads' link on the menu bar and follow the instructions given. The data are provided as zip files and for each one, a 'last modified' date is provided.

A standalone version of the GRIN database called pcGRIN is also available for individual crops. To use pcGRIN go to: and follow the instructions provided. You will download and install the software and then select and install the crop datasets separately. The individual crop datasets show a last modfied date.

EUNIS (European Nature Information System) –

The EUNIS Database web application provides access to data in a consolidated database. The information includes:

  • Data on species, habitats and sites compiled in the framework of NATURA2000 (EU Habitats and Birds Directives)
  • Data collected by ETC/BD (formerly the European Topic Centre for Nature Conservation) from literature and other sources as reference data
  • Information on species, habitats and sites taken into account in relevant international conventions
  • Specific data collected in the framework of the EEA reporting activities, which also constitute a core set of data to be updated periodically

See for further information on EUNIS.

To access data via EUNIS:

  • Use the search facility to search for your taxon of interest
  • Click on the 'geographical distribution' tab to obtain the distribution data
  • Note that the mapping function provided at this stage does not distinguish between national mainland (e.g., Portugal) and island (e.g., Madeira) occurrences, and only shades the political country of occurrence
  • Click on the 'sites' tab to obtain a list of recorded occurrences
  • The coordinate data cannot be downloaded from EUNIS; therefore, they have to be copied from the web page

BioCASE (Biological Collection Access Service for Europe) –

The BioCASE Portal provides access to the European biodiversity data in the GBIF system. It is complementary to the GBIF portal in that it provides more detailed information about specimen and observation data, especially when these are based on the rich ABCD standard. For European occurrence data, it is therefore worth searching BioCASE as well as GBIF. However, note that BioCASE is not as user-friendly as GBIF; for example, a search for a species name may result in multiple records, but when looking at the details of each record, you may find that you are looking at records for a subspecific taxon, not the species itself. The system may also return erroneous data when requesting file downloads. Data also vary greatly in quality, but this is most likely a problem related to the management of individual collections, rather than the BioCASE Portal.

To search for specimen or observation data in BioCASE:

  • Follow the link above and click on 'Search the BioCASE portal for European biodiversity (specimens and observations)'
  • Enter the taxon name and click on 'search'
  • You will be shown a summary view of the data available for the taxon of interest
  • If you want to access the full list of records for the taxon, click on 'get units'
  • You will be presented with the records listed in tabular format and you now have the option to select those of interest, view the details of the records and download the selected data
  • If you do not wish to access the full list of records for the taxon, you have the option of refining your query before clicking on 'get units'; for example, if you only want to see records from a partcular country (i.e., the country where the collection is housed), click on the 'country' tab and only select those of interest

EURISCO (European Internet Search Catalogue of Ex Situ PGR Accessions) –

EURISCO provides access to passport data associated with PGR accessions held in ex situ collections in Europe (the data are not limited to taxa that occur in Europe, only those held in European collections). Note that much of the data you will find in EURISCO are accessible via GBIF.

To access data via EURISCO:

  • Use the search facility to access data on your taxon of interest
  • Click on the 'results' link to refine your query
  • Select 'passport data' to access all the passport data associated with the taxon that are available via EURISCO. If coordinate data are not available, nor a description of the location, it may be possible to contact the holding institute to obtain further details

National databases

Some national databases are available online; for example:

To find out whether a national database is available for the country of interest, use an internet search engine (e.g., Google), contact the country's PGR National Focal Point, or consult major botanic gardens and herbaria.

Crop-specific databases

For Europe, the ECPGR European Central Crop Databases (ECCDBs) can be consulted for taxon occurrence data. For access to a list of ECCCBs, go to

ECCDBs include:

Other data sources

In addition to the online data sources listed above, further distribution data may be obtained from Floras, monographs, journal articles, academic texts, grey literature and offline databases. Online library databases can be searched to obtain a list of published literature. Specialist libraries can also be consulted, such as those housed in gene banks, botanic gardens and other research institutes.

Taxon specialists, conservation agencies and protected area managers may be able to provide access to information contained in unpublished reports and databases and/or personal knowledge about the distribution of taxa.

Data collated from online sources and printed literature may also need to be supplemented with visits to herbaria to collate passport data directly from herbarium specimens. This is necessary for collections that are not digitized and not available online. Gene bank passport data may also be accessed by making direct contact with the gene bank manager.

Data sources introduction > Taxonomic data > Distribution data > Conservation data > Environmental data

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