Land and Water Digital Media Series
Global Agro-ecological Zones
FAO, Land and Water Digital Media Series n°11,
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 (www.iiasa.ac.at/research/luc/gaez/index.htm), 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
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 : www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGL/agll/gaez/index.htm
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