Floristic Quality Assessment

The Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA) is a robust, botanically based method for assessing the quality of ecological communities and natural areas. Integral to the method is that each native plant species in a state or region is assigned a Coefficient of Conservatism, or C value, based on its response to stressors. Species of high C values (7-10) are expected to be largely restricted to areas with minimal anthropogenic disturbances or adapted to unique natural conditions (including natural disturbances), whereas species with low C values (1-3) are expected to be largely found in ruderal or highly degraded habitats. Exotics typically receive a 0. In the Northeast Region (including six New England states and New York), C values were completed at the state level in 2011, whereby every species in each state was assigned a C value based on statewide “average behavior.” But jurisdictional units are not optimal for addressing changes in species behavior. For this reason, the EPA and NEIWPCC supported the development of ecoregional C values, including in the Northeast.

Botanists were asked to assign CoC according to this basic set of criteria:

CoC Criteria
0 Non-native with a wide range of ecological tolerances. Often these are opportunistic invaders of intact undisturbed habitats.
1 to 2 Native invasive or widespread native that is not typical of (or only marginally typical of) a particular plant community; tolerant of anthropogenic disturbance.
3 to 5 Native with an intermediate range of ecological tolerances and may typify a stable native community, but may also persist under some anthropogenic disturbance.
6 to 8 Native with a narrow range of ecological tolerances and typically associated with a stable community.
9 to 10 Native with a narrow range of ecological tolerances, high fidelity to particular habitat conditions, and sensitive to anthropogenic disturbance.

In addition, botanists were instructed to think about the statewide ecological tolerance against disturbances and stressors occurring outside of the environmental variation to which the species is evolutionarily adapted. A species that needs periodic or annual disturbance (e.g., fire) may still be highly conservative.

Marsh monitoring

The full final report (2018) is available here, along with C-value database here, and a YouTube webinar presentation is available here.

A revised 2022 report, entitled Enhancing Northeast Wetland Monitoring and Assessments with Ecoregional FQA Metrics, can be found at the NEIWPCC Resource Library.

Contact NEIWPCC for more information.