Land and Water Digital Media Series

Global Agro-ecological Zones

FAO, Land and Water Digital Media Series n11,
ISBN 92-5-104504-6
Price: US$40.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with the collaboration of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), has developed the Agro-ecological Zones (AEZ) system for rational land-use planning options to be formulated and tested on the basis of an inventory of land resources and evaluation of biophysical limitations and potentials. The AEZ methodology follows an environmental approach; it provides a standardized framework for the characterization of climate, soil and terrain conditions relevant to agricultural production. Crop modelling and environmental matching procedures are used to identify crop-specific limitations of prevailing climate, soil and terrain resources, under different levels of inputs and management conditions.
Recent availability of digital global databases of climatic parameters, topography, soil and terrain, vegetation, and population distribution has called for revisions and improvements in calculation procedures and in turn has allowed for expanding assessments of AEZ crop suitability and land productivity potentials to temperate and boreal environments. The applications and data presented in this Global Agro-ecological Zones (GAEZ) CD-ROM include examples of: quantification of land productivity, estimation of extents of land with rain-fed or irrigated cultivation potential, occurrences of environmental constraints to agricultural production, indication of potential "hot spots" of agricultural conversion, and possible geographical shifts of agricultural land potentials as result of changing climate. Finally, attention is drawn to the limitations of the currently available global datasets (e.g. the 1:5 million scale soil map) and recommendations are made for upgrading and extending the base information, and for future applications.
The CD-ROM contains a section with bibliographical references, an index and search engine, and a frequently asked question (FAQ) page. The CD-ROM, also available as a www site on the Internet (, provides a large number of downloadable maps and tables in graphic, GIS and spreadsheet formats.

Minimum system requirements
Viewing of the CD-ROM requires a browser installed, either Netscape 4.7 or Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 (or later) with JavaScript, Cookies and Cascading Style Sheets enabled. For PC systems, a Pentium processor is recommended with MS-Windows 95/98 or NT/2000 with at least 32 MB RAM and a 15" colour monitor with a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels. For comfortable viewing it is advisable to have a larger screen with a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels and a colour palette of 65536 colours.
All downloadable maps are provided in two formats: as graphics files in a standard format (*.bmp), and as binary raster files (*.bil) for import into GIS software (such as Arc/Info or IDRISI). GIS software capable of handling raster formats is required to make full use of the downloadable maps. Internet access is preferred for some help functions, but is not essential for using the CD-ROM. All text documents are in HTML format.
The GAEZ CD-ROM should start automatically when inserted into the drive. If it does not, then you should open the file "autorun.exe" if you are running MS-Windows 95/98/NT/2000 or "index.html" and "help.htm" if you are running any other system. When the CD-ROM starts up, the user is presented with a menu of five options. The first option "Readme First" describes how the CD-ROM is structured, its limitations, and how the user should proceed. The second option will run the GAEZ www pages from the CD-ROM. The third option allows the user to browse the GAEZ www site (providing the computer is connected to the Internet). The last two options connect the user respectively to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) and the IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) www sites.

The FAO - IIASA website :

To purchase the CD please send your order to:
Please address questions regarding technical aspects of the programs and any suggestions for improvement to:
Director, Land and Water Development Division