Oxbows have a classic U shape

PFI and US Fish and Wildlife Companion Collectively to Restore Oxbows in Iowa

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By Vanya North

Darrick Weissenfluh of the US Fish and Wildlife is overseeing oxbow development on Linda Evans cattle farm in Greene County, IA

Darrick Weissenfluh of the US Fish and Wildlife is overseeing oxbow improvement on Linda Evans cattle farm in Greene County, Iowa.

When Darrick Weissenfluh, of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, reached out to Linda Evans late final 12 months about doing an oxbow restoration on her 36-acre pasture space in Greene County, Iowa, she wasn’t certain what to anticipate.

“Darrick reached out and requested if I used to be occupied with having an oxbow restored on my property,” Linda remembers. “Aerial photographs of the realm confirmed that a number of oxbows have been created by nature, however had full of sediment, so from a conservation standpoint, restoring them may benefit the water high quality of East Buttrick Creek. I stated certain, and so they’ve [US Fish and Wildlife Service] been nice to work with. I feel farmers on the whole do are usually good stewards of the land, whether or not it’s cowl crops, waterways, or this oxbow restoration.   And definitely, the monetary incentives have been good. There was no expense for me. It simply appeared like a win-win proposition.”

Significance and advantages of oxbows in Iowa

Oxbows are former stream meanders which might be usually ‘U’ formed and have change into separated from the present stream. They’re also known as oxbow lakes and are an essential kind of wetland widespread in Iowa’s floodplains.

Oxbows have a classic U shapeOxbows have a classic U shape

Oxbows have a basic U form.

The advantages of oxbows right here in Iowa are many. Traditionally, Iowa was residence to shallow meandering prairie streams, a lot of which have been straightened for ease of farming or transportation. The result’s altered and degraded streams and oxbows that aren’t able to processing the nutrient runoff from fields shortly sufficient, leading to poor water high quality. That’s one factor that Linda is hoping this oxbow restoration will assist with.

“That is floor that East Buttrick Creek runs by on the way in which all the way down to the Des Moines River,” Linda says.  “The massive Des Moines metro space has nearly 750,000 individuals who don’t wish to drink chemical compounds and these oxbows are literally filtering nitrates, which I do know is a large concern in recent times as our water high quality has gotten extra consideration. Oxbow restorations are one thing that farmers are doing or are occupied with doing, to assist with that concern.”

This meandering creek is the original creek that the new oxbow will connect withThis meandering creek is the original creek that the new oxbow will connect with

The oxbow will join with this meandering creek, East Buttrick Creek, which runs to the Des Moines River. Oxbows and different conservation methods can play a perform in purifying the water that provides the Des Moines metro.

Multi-purpose oxbow restoration

In October 2023, by a partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Sensible Farmers of Iowa, utilizing an award from the Iowa Division of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, excavation started to revive two multi-purpose oxbows. When funded by a WQI grant, multi-purpose oxbow restorations are tile-fed to deal with crop discipline drainage water, which means discipline tile water is commonly discharged immediately into an oxbow in order that restored oxbow wetlands can cut back nitrate ranges.

Evans 7Evans 7

As their identify implies, multi-purpose oxbow restorations (and usually all oxbow restorations) may be designed for a number of functions past water high quality enhancements together with fish and wildlife habitat enchancment, growing leisure alternatives, growing flood water storage, offering off-stream water for cattle and/or enhancing the viewscape of a farm or property. On the day of my go to, an area contractor was already exhausting at work restoring a multi-purpose oxbow within the pasture (restoration was just lately accomplished), and one other oxbow is now being restored in one other pasture to the north.

The newly dredged oxbow on Linda Evans cattle farm has tapped groundwater that will assist in connecting the new oxbow to East Buttrick CreekThe newly dredged oxbow on Linda Evans cattle farm has tapped groundwater that will assist in connecting the new oxbow to East Buttrick Creek

The newly dredged oxbow on Linda Evans cattle farm has tapped groundwater that may help in connecting the brand new oxbow to East Buttrick Creek.

Native plant restoration for habitat enhancement

“We began engaged on this final oxbow a bit of over per week in the past. It actually doesn’t take all that lengthy to dig out, and the influence to the landowner is minimal,” says Darrick. “As soon as we end digging out the sediment that has accrued on this oxbow and reconnect the oxbow to the creek, we’ll reseed the banks and disturbance areas with native crops and grasses to supply financial institution stabilization and habitat for birds and pollinators. All of the nutrient-rich soil excavated from the oxbow is being hauled to an adjoining farm discipline and may end in elevated crop yields for the farmer.”Evans 2Evans 2

Darrick plans to make use of a canopy crop as much as the banks with a local seed combine to stabilize the banks. The pasture is already residence to many native species as a result of it has by no means been plowed or farmed. Additionally it is residence to a number of sorts of non-native clover, and whereas not native, clover does present a supply of power and meals for wildlife and pollinators similar to bees, wasps and butterflies.

Re-seeding with native grasses and deep-rooted prairie mixes adjoining to and alongside the banks of the oxbows will go a good distance in restoring prairie habitat whereas nonetheless permitting for cattle grazing. Within the case of Linda’s oxbows, her cattle will basically fill within the position that native bison as soon as occupied by offering disturbance that native grasses have developed with, permitting for a extra resilient and truer-to-form prairie habitat.

Darrick is hopeful that these restorations, on Evans’ farm, and others will assist restore off-stream habitat. These restorations, nonetheless, should not meant to revive the river and creeks, simply the oxbow wetland features.

“By eradicating sediment from the oxbow and reconnecting the oxbow to the unique stream channel, we restore that slower ‘pool’ water space that enables for nutrient absorption,” Darrick says. We’re additionally hopeful that it’s going to enhance habitat for fish together with the Topeka shiner, an endangered species of fish that lives in East Buttrick Creek and different prairie streams in Iowa.”

That potential for habitat, each terrestrial and aquatic, is what Linda most seems to be ahead to with the present restoration.

Trying forward: Imaginative and prescient of prairie flowers and ecosystem restoration

“I feel it’s going to be good to see fish or birds or butterflies which might be possibly supported by the restoration of the oxbows,” Linda says. “Considered one of my most up-to-date chats with Darrick, we spoke about including prairie flowers. I’d love native prairie flowers and I really like the concept this pasture, which has solely ever been pasture in my reminiscence, would possibly now include a bit of piece of what it was like 100, 200 or extra years in the past. I feel that’s going to be actually neat to see out right here!”

Should you’re occupied with studying extra about oxbow restoration, please think about attending PFI’s annual convention, particularly the “Roundtable: Overcoming Panorama Challenges to Set up and Preserve Oxbows and Buffers.”

Sensible Farmers of Iowa additionally gives cost-share for oxbow restoration and different conservation practices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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