Floristic Quality Assessment of a Long Island Coastal Prairie

 

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Michael Giambalvo
Committee: Alisa Hove, Amy Boyd

Floristic quality assessment (FQA) is an important tool for conservation and restoration efforts in areas of urban sprawl such as Long Island, New York, but to this date no such studies have been carried out there. The Hempstead Plains remnant prairie has been managed for 25 years, but a quantitative indicator of the plants present at specific coordinates on the land is lacking. Such an indicator would help land managers track changes in plant populations by systematically evaluating the effects of current management on habitat quality to potentially improve site and preserve remaining native flora. FQAs rely on coefficients assigned to each plant species in a region, based on the conservatism of each species relative to others. These ‘‘coefficients of conservatism’’ (C- values) were assigned by a panel of botanists familiar with the New York region’s flora. To evaluate floristic quality at the Hempstead Plains, assessments were performed on the 16.3 acres of prairie currently managed by the non-profit organization, Friends of the Hempstead Plains. Assessments of the Hempstead Plains took place in Fall 2014, Spring and Summer 2015. Using the fence post markers as reference points, data were collected from 85 plots spanning the area from Perimeter Avenue to the fence bordering Nassau Community College’s parking lot. A total of 65 species were found of which 42 were native and 23 were exotic. Floristic quality indices (FQI) for individual plots ranged from values as low as 0 to maximums as high as 19.05, with higher values occurring within the center, less disturbed area of the plains. The Hempstead plains FQI value is typical of a prairie remnant, with an overall value of 3.8. More FQAs are required to confirm these findings and determine whether these finding are consistent over time.