Celebrating 21 Years of Friendship in the Forest

Urban Biodiversity and Citizen Science

Tucked away in a narrow valley framed by the Great Wall of China, the Badaling International Friendship Forest (BIFF) is a nonprofit, eco-friendly park that provides environmental benefits as well as a place for visitors to enjoy the storied ancient scenery.   

2021 marked 21 years of ConocoPhillips China’s (COPC) support for the park, which has included funding for the park’s construction, forest vegetation restoration, infrastructure development and ongoing maintenance. In addition to funding, a team of COPC employees and their families have cleaned up and planted trees at the park annually for over two decades. 

( ConocoPhillips China employees and their families at BIFF )

Throughout that time, BIFF has been transformed into an ecosystem that helps prevent damaging windstorms, stabilizes the soil, and purifies the air, earning it the designation of a “State-level Key Public Welfare Forest Protection Area” from the Beijing government in 2004. It covers an area of 133 hectares, about 328 acres, with an altitude ranging from 630 to 800 meters, and boasts 16 types of flowering shrubs, such as Chinese pines, arborvitaes and apricot trees. The trails around BIFF feature signs telling the history and culture of the Great Wall and help educate visitors about the crucial importance of environmental conservation.

“Air, land and water are the foundation of our lives and the cornerstone of sustainable development for our planet,” said COPC president Bill Arnold. “Grounded in the concept of sustainability, ConocoPhillips China has long been committed to the ecological environment in local communities and put great emphasis on youth and public eco-education for long-term benefits”.  

Eco-Education, Environmental Awareness  

“Walk Green with ConocoPhillips” is an eco-education program jointly launched by COPC, China Green Foundation, Beijing Badaling Culture and Tourism Group, and Shan Shui Conservation Center to mark World Earth Day in 2019. It aims to improve the conservation of biodiversity in BIFF and transform it into an important ecological-educational platform for the public to learn about native species. The program recruits citizen science volunteers to conduct environmental surveys that establish a biodiversity baseline database for plants, birds, and insects. Volunteers also help develop route maps that help visitors best view park plants and wildlife. The program also holds public eco-education workshops for participants to learn about native park species and the methodologies of nature monitoring as well as participate in data collection and compilation that contributes to environment conservation.  

( ConocoPhillips China, China Green Foundation, Beijing Badaling Culture and Tourism Group and Shan Shui Conservation Center jointly launching the “Walk Green with ConocoPhillips” Eco-education Program in April 2019 )

Since inception, the program has held five in person workshops and one online session with hundreds of participants. While monitoring the BIFF ecosystem, volunteers documented 40 species of plants, 30 species of birds, and 46 species of insects.  

“Biodiversity monitoring is a channel for introducing the wonders of nature to the general public,” said Gao Xiangyu, a bird watching volunteer with seven years of experience, who participated in all seven workshops. “Most of the volunteers come with limited scientific knowledge, but the workshops offer them a richer understanding of the nature and species that co-exist with us.”  

(  The Daurian redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus) , photographed by citizen volunteer Yansheng Zhang at BIFF )

By the end of 2020, “Walk Green with ConocoPhillips” had achieved eight biodiversity monitoring reports and developed a winter plant observation handbook, flora and fauna list, and biodiversity research report, through joint efforts by the Shan Shui Conservation Center and citizen volunteers.  

“The program has not only strengthened public eco-awareness, but also enriched the biodiversity research database for secondary forests in North China,” said Zhao Xiang, conservation director at Shan Shui. “We look forward to further leveraging our partnership with COPC to fully unleash the power of conservation awareness.”