about us

Who we are

The Global Protected Area Friendly System (GPAFS) is initiated by an international task force to promote scientists, entrepreneurs, public organizations, and the public, together to support, promote, participate friendly production and nature conservation in and around protected areas, to stop the decline in global biodiversity, and to ease this enormous crisis relates to the future of mankind.

Our international team

Yan Xie, Founder, Global Protected Area Friendly System

John MacKinnon, Chief-scientist, GEF China Wetland Project (Bird and protected area expert)

Jeff McNeely, Former Chief-scientist, IUCN; Consultant on Biodiversity and Conservation Corridors, Asian Development Bank (Biodiversity expert)

Dexin Tian, Secretary General, Global Protected Area Friendly System

Joshua Berger, Global Liaison Officer, Global Protected Area Friendly System

Regional committees

GPAFS is establishing six Regional Committees in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America and Oceania. Each of these Committees will coordinate the work on protected area friendly products and services in their macro-region, spread technical reports and recommendations provided by other Regional Committee or GPAFS’ global team and adapt guidelines and certifications to their regional context. In some cases, regional technical guidelines might be inappropriate and the Regional Committees will then support national and local stakeholders to develop their own national or local guidelines. Regional Committee will also support the establishment of regional research centres to evaluate and guide protected area friendly production in their region. Each Committee will gather five to seven members among relevant stakeholders from the region.

Our partners

The Paradise International Foundation (Taohuayuan) was founded by prominent Chinese entrepreneurs, artists, philanthropists. Jack Ma and Huateng Ma serve as co-Chairmen, Guojun Shen serves as Executive Chairman of the Foundation, which is a non-profit, global, environmental protection organization. It is committed to using scientific means, and business best practices to protect our beloved Earth.

The International Alliance of Protected Areas (IAPA) is an international organization founded in 2013 which gather PAs from around the world with similar aims as GPAFS. Several members of the Executive Committee of IAPA are also members of GPAFS and synergies between the two entities are obvious.

The IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) is establishing a task force to study PA-friendly products and services and GPAFS will be a core driver of this task force. GPAFS will among other things draft a report on the state of the art of PA-friendly products and services around the world.

What we do

Our approach

We help and support protected areas to improve their capacity of producing PA friendly products and services, provide market support and help them sale their products, and thereby, provide sustainable economic support to local community development and conservation work. Many aspects need to be coordinated and linked:  research, conservation, production, management, business, transportation, nature education.  This work goes beyond the capacity of the existing GPAFS’ team. The GPAFS will thus focus on improving the scientific system, establishing international cooperation, supervising the conservation outputs and providing quality control, while other relevant tasks should be conducted by the GPAFS’ strategic partners around the world to the best of their abilities and strengths. The GPAFS thus promotes a bottom-up approach: every protected area, country or macro-region can propose standards for its products or services, based on its specific constraints. Biodiversity and ecosystems are very complex and diverse and global standards cannot be implemented homogeneously around the globe. That is why the GPAFS supports local standards, as long as these standards match the goals of the GPAFS, and in particular generate real benefits for biodiversity. The GPAFS provides a platform to scale up PA-friendly products and services and share experience. It can be seen as a network of stakeholders sharing a common goal and common tools, including online sale platforms promoting PA-friendly products and services.

Our goals

  1. Publish a technical report entitled “Overview of protected-area friendly products and services around the globe: A tool to alleviate threats on biodiversity and finance conservation” by 2018;
  2. Establish 6 Regional Committees in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America and Oceania and initiate a global network to work toward the same outcomes;
  3. Support over 300 Protected Areas (PA) globally by the end of 2019, to support the production and sales of their PA-friendly products and services.

Projects and products

Successful pilots in China

From 2013 to 2015, pilots in 15 protected areas in China led to the marketing of 10 protected area friendly products (rice, wheat, wild vegetables, walnuts, etc.). Many lessons have been learnt from these successful demonstration schemes and these lessons will be shared by GPAFS with protected areas all around the world to support them into scaling up their own PA-friendly products and services.

Map of the protected areas involved in the pilot schemes in China starting in 2013

The table below summarizes information about the products that have been brought to market. The development of these products continued after 2015 and is itself being scaled up with the support of GPAFS.

Product name Place of production Conservation benefits
PA friendly Tibetan sheep Jiudingshan, Sichuan Province Reduce the number of grazing animals and leave more space to wildlife
PA friendly geese rice Jingxin wetland, Jilin Province Geese and consumers both benefit from pollution-free rice
PA friendly cereal crops: sorghum beans, black bean, local corn, sticky corn Laoyeling, Heilongjiang Province Protect key wildlife migration corridors along the Sino-Russian border
PA friendly walnuts Bazi Village, Pingwu, Sichuan Province Protect Giant panda, Golden monkey and Flying squirrels
PA friendly green plum Libo, Guizhou Province Protect South China Karst World Heritage Site
PA friendly dried bamboo shoot Longxihongkou, Sichuan Province Protect diverse wild vegetable and avoid monoculture
PA friendly Shiyan wild vegetable Longxihongkou, Sichuan Province Protect diverse wild vegetable and avoid monoculture

Around the world

GPAFS contacted over 80 entities around the world, most of them protected areas, and is establishing a network of stakeholders willing to promote PA-friendly products and services to benefit biodiversity.


Rationale behind GPAFS

Why the Global Protected Area Friendly System?

Biodiversity plays a key role in the survival of mankind.  Human beings’ survival and development rely on natural ecosystems. Ecosystems directly provides various materials and products critical to the survival of human beings (food, water, oxygen and wood), but also, from a macro point of view,  such ecosystem services as biodiversity balance, climate regulation, pollution reduction, water and soil conservation, wind prevention, sand fixation,  disaster prevention, as well as  aesthetic and cultural benefits.

The rapid decline of global biodiversity constitutes a serious threat to the survival of mankind. According to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2015, during the last 40 years, the global population of terrestrial vertebrates has declined by around 50%, and the freshwater ecosystem’s Living Planet Index has dropped by 76%. The IUCN Red List published in the same year also revealed the same trend of biodiversity loss. If the loss rate remains the same, the Living Planet Index based on wildlife population will plummet within 50 years and ecosystems will collapse. The crisis of rapid wildlife loss is somehow more serious than haze and smog, water pollution and climate change, since once a species is extinct, it cannot be brought back to life. The severity and urgency of the crisis has not been widely recognized.

Protected areas play key roles in biodiversity conservation.  With the progress of urbanization and the development of industry and agriculture, natural ecosystems have been continuously damaged and degraded. When ecological degradation, especially wildlife depopulation, reaches a certain level, natural ecosystems could no longer function adequately and human beings might not be able to survive and develop on Earth. The minimal level is the eco-security bottom line. We must preserve minimal areas of sufficiently healthy natural ecosystems, sufficiently rich biodiversity and basic ecosystem services. Such areas can be called protected areas. The IUCN defined “protected area” in 2008 as “a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values” (IUCN Definition 2008). Protected areas include representative natural ecosystems, natural areas with important ecological service functions, natural areas where endangered wildlife and plants and important genetic resources abound, important corridor regions, and terrestrial land, terrestrial waters and marine waters where conserved objects such as significant natural heritage and natural scenery are located.

Global coverage of protected areas. In 2014, the global terrestrial and marine protected area coverages had reached 15% and 3% respectively (Protected Planet Report 2014, UNEP-WCMC, 2014). According to the Aichi Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the terrestrial and marine protected area coverage should reach 17% and  10% respectively by 2020. However, even existing natural protected areas are under the threat of uncontrolled development in their surrounding areas. Poisonous and hazardous agricultural chemicals, the massive introduction and monoculture of alien species with high economic value, and human disturbance caused by excessive tourism all threaten the survival of endangered species. Poaching, reclamation, road and dam development are also imposing negative impacts upon remaining protected areas.

Proportion of land or sea covered by protected areas around the world (Source: James E. M. Watson, Nigel Dudley, Daniel B. Segan & Marc Hockings. 2014. The performance and potential of protected areas. Nature 515, 67–73 (06 November 2014) doi:10.1038/nature13947)

There are already many successful international examples, such as the Rainforest Alliance (RA) certification. RA preserves ecosystems in and around the farms that meet the certification’s criteria, limits the use of agricultural chemicals and evaluates such indicators as waste management. Only products that pass the evaluations can be called “RA Certified Products”. Ecologists at the Smithonian Migratory Bird Center have also developed the Bird Friendly Certification Criteria. Besides, there are other mechanisms like Fair Trade, marine products and palm oil certification systems, which play important roles in biodiversity conservation.


Having analyzed in depth the status of global biodiversity and how to effectively conduct nature conservation, Dr XIE Yan, an associate research professor from the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, together with over 200 experts from various disciplines, established the GPAFS in 2013 based on last 20 years’ rich research and conservation practice. Dr XIE Yan is serving as a Steering Committee Member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, was Secretary General of the International Society of Zoological Sciences (ISZS) and China Program Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), she has 20 years experience on biodiversity conservation focusing on conservation of endangered species such as the Amur tiger, Tibetan antelope, Chinese alligator and on wildlife trade control. She organized the first large scale evaluation of over 10,000 Chinese species following the IUCN Red List Criteria and promoted the development of the draft Protected Area Law of China. Her work has a significant influence on China conservation policy and on awareness about conservation issues.

The GPAFS is working with the World Commission of Protected Areas (WCPA/IUCN) to establish a Protected Area Friendly System Task Force under the WCPA so as to further enhance international cooperation to build on the GPAFS’ theoretical researches and practical demonstration projects.

In 2016, the Paradise International Foundation and the Global Protected Area Friendly System co-sponsored the “Paradise – Protected Area Friendly Product” program in order to support PA-friendly production in and around protected areas, support product sales, and provide sustainable funding for conservation. While achieving conservation objectives, it seeks to simultaneously produce natural, healthy and reliable agricultural products for consumers through a strict quality control system.

An agreement on the following objectives has been reached for the “Paradise – Protected Area Friendly Product” program: by the end of 2019, criteria and certification procedures for protected area friendly products are developed and improved, and a global trade platform for GPAFS products is established. Thirty-seven million RMB of PA friendly products from 300 PAs in China and 80 outside of China are sold.

Since its start in November 2016, over 70 products from 42 protected areas have submitted applications to the program.


Joshua Berger

Global Liaison Officer, Protected Area Friendly System of China

No C208. 1-5 Beichen Xilu, Chaoyang Dist.

Beijing, 100101, China

Email:  jberger@baohudi.org

Website: www.baohudi.org