This document identifies the main objectives of the Coastwide Reference Monitoring System (CRMS) vegetation analytical team, which are to provide (1) collection and development methods for vegetation response variables and (2) the ways in which these response variables will be used to evaluate restoration project effectiveness. The vegetation parameters (that is, response variables) collected in CRMS and other coastal restoration projects funded under the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) are identified, and the field collection methods for these parameters are summarized. Existing knowledge on community and plant responses to changes in environmental drivers (for example, flooding and salinity) from published literature and from the CRMS and CWPPRA monitoring dataset are used to develop a suite of indices to assess wetland condition in coastal Louisiana. Two indices, the floristic quality index (FQI) and a productivity index, are described for herbaceous and forested vegetation. The FQI for herbaceous vegetation is tested with a long-term dataset from a CWPPRA marsh creation project. Example graphics for this index are provided and discussed. The other indices, an FQI for forest vegetation (that is, trees and shrubs) and productivity indices for herbaceous and forest vegetation, are proposed but not tested. New response variables may be added or current response variables removed as data become available and as our understanding of restoration success indicators develops.
Once indices are fully developed, each will be used by the vegetation analytical team to assess and evaluate CRMS/CWPPRA project and program effectiveness. The vegetation analytical teams plan to summarize their results in the form of written reports and/or graphics and present these items to CRMS Federal and State sponsors, restoration project managers, landowners, and other data users for their input.