The soil beneath our feet holds vital information for understanding agriculture, climate, and environmental sustainability. IIASA provides user friendly tools to support decision makers in developing national, regional, and global strategies for food security and the environment.

Global Agro‑Ecological Zones (GAEZ) is a tool used by policymakers to inform land-use decisions for food and energy production while also protecting the environment. Developed over 30 years by IIASA and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the latest version of the tool (GAEZ v4.0) provides extensive information for sustainable food production and water use strategies, and has been applied in numerous global, regional, and national food security and sustainability studies.

In 2008, IIASA, the FAO, and several other partners also initiated the Harmonized World Soil Database (HWSD), which today forms an integral component of GAEZ. Since its inception, the database has been updated  repeatedly with new information – the latest being the HWSD v2.0 in 2023.

This version incorporates several enhancements including an expanded data source drawing from various national soil databases, an increased number of soil attributes available across seven depth layers, and the  adoption of a common soil reference for all units using the present international standard, the World Reference Base for Soil Resources (2022). The database relies on Geographic Information System (GIS) technology  enabling users to access data seamlessly. The database also comes with a dedicated viewer that simplifies the exploration of soil associations and attributes.

The GAEZ and HWSD databases are freely available on the IIASA and FAO websites.