A key aspect of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s nontidal wetlands program is ensuring that there is no net loss of wetland acreage and function through permitted impacts. DEQ and Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) were awarded several grants by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a Wetland Monitoring and Assessment model to assess the current conditions of Virginia’s wetlands. Virginia is one of 3 states nationally to perform this work for EPA.
The overarching goal of the wetland monitoring and assessment strategy is to develop a long-term implementation plan for a wetland monitoring and assessment program that protects the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the Commonwealth’s water resources, including wetlands. In order to accomplish this goal, it is critical to first know the status of wetland resources in Virginia, in terms of location and extent of wetlands in each watershed, and have a general knowledge of the quality of these wetland resources. Secondly, the functions of wetland resources impacted through our permitting program must be accurately evaluated to determine those functions to be replaced through compensatory mitigation. It is also important to assess the degree to which the required compensatory mitigation is performing in relation to those impacted functions.
The hierarchical nature of Virginia’s wetland monitoring and assessment strategy allows for both general reporting on status and trends, as well as providing for more intense analysis of select watersheds for assessment of cumulative impacts to wetland condition and water quality. This assessment approach will generate data that will be used to conduct biannual reporting on status and trends of wetlands as part of Virginia's Integrated 305(b)/303(d) report, and to evaluate the effectiveness of regulatory and voluntary programs in meeting Virginia's mandate of no net loss of wetland resources through regulatory programs, and a net resource gain through voluntary programs. Further, our interactive database and Wetland Quality Status and Trends Report will provide the general public, resource agencies, land use planning entities, and conservation groups with general information on the health and condition of the Commonwealth’s wetland resources.
The following questions will be used to guide the performance measures for the wetland monitoring program's objectives:
1. What is the overall quality of wetlands in Virginia?
2. To what extent is wetland quality changing over time?
3. What are the wetland problem areas and areas needing protection?
4. What level of wetland protection is needed?
5. How effective are wetland programs in protecting the resource?
DEQ expects that this strategy can be accomplished within a ten-year time frame.
Floristic Quality Assessment Index (FQAI)
As part of the scope of work for the Wetland Monitoring and Assessment grant, DEQ worked with botanical experts and wetland scientists from various regions of Virginia to develop a Floristic Quality Assessment Index (FQAI) to be used as a qualitative indicator of a wetland’s relative condition. The FQAI has been shown in other states to be a reliable means of assessing wetland quality with minimal data collection. Development of a FQAI specific to Virginia involves determining Coefficient of Conservatism values (C-values) for vascular plants frequently encountered in tidal and nontidal wetlands in Virginia. The assignment of C-values is the first phase of developing a FQAI to help assess relative wetland function and quality as part of DEQ’s on-going wetland monitoring and assessment efforts.
Using the Calculator
Enter the plants you have found by genus and species using the FQAI Calculator’s drop down boxes. (Note: Upon selecting another genus your previous entry will be alphabetized in the list.) The calculator will perform the computation to determine the Floristic Quality Assessment Index as defined by a committee of expert botanists and wetland scientists. A committee of four (4) botanical experts (chaired by VDEQ staff) determined, through consensus, a coefficient of conservatism (C) for each plant species on the list. The C-value will range from 0 (most likely to occur in disturbed landscapes or a non-native species) to 10 (most likely to occur in undisturbed landscapes). Intermediate integers will be assigned based upon the species tolerance to disturbance.
It is recommended that your survey area be at least 100 meters square for the most valid results, and it is important to identify every plant in that area. The season in which you perform your survey may affect your results, so it would be interesting to revisit the same sites in different seasons. Mid-July is recommended for wetland and riparian sites as sedge and grass identification to species is important.