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Inventory and Classification of Oxbow Lakes in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley


August 2016 - July 2019


The Mississippi Alluvial Plain (MAP) represents the historical floodplain of the lower Mississippi River and was formerly characterized as one of the largest contiguous wetlands in North America. Today the MAP contains a diverse mosaic of aquatic habitats formed through the meandering of multiple rivers, and include many perennial lakes formed via channel cut-offs, known as oxbow lakes. While environmental data are sometimes available on these natural lake systems, the data are scattered throughout multiple databases, and therefore system characterization remains inadequate. The goal of this project is to create an inventory of the lakes in the MAP containing biophysical data relevant to the management of biological resources. Three objectives were identified to achieve this goal. First, GIS data on the spatial distribution of surface waters is being used to identify the location of naturally occurring perennial lakes. Second, remotely sensed data is being applied to estimate a set of ecologically significant biophysical characteristics for each lake including morphometry, depth seasonality, surrounding land-cover, and connectivity, and these characteristics integrated into an inventory. Third, data will be used to create functional classes to group and describe the ecological setting of each lake. Products will be integrated into a functional GIS product for use by managers and researchers.

During the first year of this research, the infrastructure needed to conduct the research was put into place, an inventory of lakes was completed, and a preliminary clustering of lakes was generated. In all, 1,429 lakes that retain at least 2 ha of flooded area continually were identified. These lakes have a median area of 19.3 ha (min-max, 2.4-5,604.7), median shoreline length of 4.1 km (0.75-247.29), a median shoreline development index of 2.6 (1.1-13.4), and a median wetted-area shrinkage of 42% (1-100). The number of lakes within the MAP varied widely among states and ranged from 7 in Illinois to 631 in Arkansas. Total lake area is 1,024 km2, representing 1.1% of the area of the MAP. Numerically, lake density averages 1.6 lakes per 100 km2. Lake numerical and area density were higher below latitude 34. The lakes were classified into six clusters that reflected distribution in the MAP, lake configuration, and wetted area shrinkage.


Current Staff

Federal Staff: 101

Masters Students: 234

Phd Students: 160

Post Docs: 60

University Staff: 268

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 671

Scientific Publications: 1868

Presentations: 4326



Funding Agencies

  • ERDC


Cooperative Research Units Program Headquarters Cooperators

  1. U.S. Geological Survey