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Global Agro-Ecological Zones

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) have cooperated over several decades to develop and implement the Agro-Ecological Zones (AEZ) modelling framework and databases. AEZ relies on well-established land evaluation principles to assess natural resources for finding suitable agricultural land utilization options. It identifies resource limitations and opportunities based on plant eco-physiological characteristics, climatic and edaphic requirements of crops and it uses these to evaluate suitability and production potentials for individual crop types under specific input and management conditions.

Managing the constraints imposed by agro-ecological conditions and knowing what the most viable crop options are, facilitates planning decisions. In this way choices can be made, which are not only more productive, but also sustainable and resilient to climatic variability. The AEZ framework contributes to several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by providing information about current and future agricultural production risks and opportunities, irrigation water demand, and crop development and adaptation options.

The AEZ methodology was initially implemented in the 1980s to assess the capacity of the world's natural resources to meet the needs for food of a fast-growing global population, particularly in developing countries. Rapid developments in computing and geo-information technology have produced increasingly detailed global databases and IT resources, which made possible the first global AEZ assessment in 2000 (GAEZ v1). Since then, global AEZ resource evaluations have been released in 2002 (GAEZ v2) and 2012 (GAEZ v3). With each update of the system, the methodological refinement and database content evolved to provide guidance for agro-ecological development at global, regional and national scales and support for assessments and indicators needed to achieve SDGs.

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