Prairie Assessment

Remnant Prairies primary function is to provide innovative Internet information tools to enhance the monitoring and management of residual prairie parcels. These tools implement and automate sophisticated, established ecological techniques in order to put real science within reach of nonscientists.

In this section, we present a couple of general discussions about the concepts behind the Remnant Prairies tools, and then the rest of the material explains how these tools work. It is best to read all these discussions in order.

Monitoring and Measuring Plant Communities

Professional ecologists use a variety of laborious field techniques followed by sophisticated statistical analyses to determine what is growing in a given area. Ideally we all would be using these techniques routinely in the management of our prairies, but they simply exceed the time, resources, and expertise most of us have available. To set the stage for the simpler approaches Remnant Prairies assists, here is a layman’s overview of what the Pros do.

Assessing Prairies with FQAs

Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA) is a simple, semi-quantitative alternative to formal ecological techniques that give a “pretty-good” characterization of the ecological status of a given area. Read more about this approach here.

Overview of Tools and Process

Although we make the claim that the Remnant Prairies online tools make tracking FQAs “simple,” there are a number of moving parts that must be manipulated to make this happen. We describe the 50,000-foot view of all of this here.

Managing Locations

The first step is to define the primary Location of interest — a farm, a park, or some other geographical entity within which all subsequent analysis will occur. You can see what we mean by looking at some of the publicly-accessible locations. Then review the detailed descriptions of how to create and manage these locations in our online system here.

Managing Georegions

Within a given Location can be defined multiple Georegions — essentially “overlays” at the Location signifying something important at the Location. There are three types of Georegions — Regions, Lines, and Markers — which are two-dimensional areas, one-dimensional lines, and zero-dimensional points. Lines and Markers can be used to identify notable features at a Location, but the Regions are the most important because they are what FQAs are measured within. Read all the details about these concepts here.

Managing FQAs

Once a Region is set up at a Location, you do an FQA over that Region by entering a species list of what you’ve found in the Region into the Remnant Prairies online system. These species data can be entered through one of several ways — individually using our search/browse tool; importing a previously-created list; or a bulk upload. Over time, serial FQAs for a given Region will display in a useful table — which is the most important end result of the process. Read all the gory details here.

Using Groups

Working groups are not essential for the basic process of doing prairie assessments at Remnant Prairies. In fact, many if not most projects on public lands will not be done within the access limitations of a Group. However, the Group infrastructure in our system provides many useful features for a family or group working on land that they want to keep private and out of the general public’s eye — such as discussion forums, document uploads/downloads, internal FAQs, image galleries, and other tools. Read more about this alternative here.

The FQA FAQ

The above descriptive information is summarized in this Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) resource about Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA).