Conservation and Management
Oxbow lakes are threatened by development (e.g., residential, agricultural) in the surrounding landscape. Other threats include habitat alteration (e.g., road crossings, excessive clearing in adjacent floodplain), and relatively minor recreational overuse (e.g., ATVs, trampling by visitors). Threats to adjacent rivers may apply to oxbow lakes (e.g., channelization, pollution, nutrient loading, sedimentation, impoundments/flooding).
Conservation Strategies and Management Practices
Where practical, establish and maintain a riparian buffer to reduce storm-water, pollution, and nutrient run-off, while simultaneously capturing sediments before they reach the oxbow lake. Buffer width should take into account the erodibility of the surrounding soils, slope steepness, and current land use. If possible, minimize the number and size of impervious surfaces in the surrounding landscape. Avoid habitat alteration within the river and surrounding landscape. For example, roads should not be routed through the riparian buffer area. If the oxbow lake must be crossed, then bridges and boardwalks are preferred over filling and culverts. Restore past impacts, such as removing obsolete impoundments and ditches in order to restore the natural hydrology. Prevent the spread of invasive exotic species into the oxbow lake through appropriate direct management, and by minimizing potential dispersal corridors.
Development and Mitigation Considerations
When considering road construction and other development activities, minimize actions that will change what water carries and how water travels to this community, both on the surface and underground. Water traveling over-the-ground as runoff usually carries an abundance of silt, clay, and other particulates during (and often after) a construction project. While still suspended in the water, these particulates make it difficult for aquatic animals to find food; after settling to the bottom of the system, they bury small plants and animals and alter the natural functions of the community in many other ways. Thus, road construction and development activities near this community type should strive to minimize particulate-laden run-off into this community. Water traveling on the ground or seeping through the ground also carries dissolved minerals and chemicals. Road salt, for example, is becoming an increasing problem both to natural communities and as a contaminant in household wells. Fertilizers, detergents, and other chemicals that increase the nutrient levels in wetlands cause algal blooms and eventually an oxygen-depleted environment in which few animals can live. Herbicides and pesticides often travel far from where they are applied and have lasting effects on the quality of the natural community. So, road construction and other development activities should strive to consider: 1. how water moves through the ground, 2. the types of dissolved substances these development activities may release, and 3. how to minimize the potential for these dissolved substances to reach this natural community.
Survey for occurrences statewide to advance documentation and classification of oxbow lakes (e.g., Genesee River). A statewide review of oxbow lakes is desirable. Continue searching for large oxbow lakes in good condition (A- to AB-ranked) preferably comprised of multiple waterbodies of varriable size and depth.
Research is needed to fill information gaps about oxbow lakes, especially to advance our understanding of their classification, hydrology, floristic variation, and characteristic fauna. In addition, there is a need to collect sufficient quantitative data to support the recognition of a smaller variant tentatively called "oxbow pond".
- Arigomphus cornutus (Horned Clubtail)
- Cardamine rotundifolia (Round-leaved Water Cress)
- Hippuris vulgaris (Mare's Tail)
- Potamogeton alpinus (Red Pondweed)