ERIE Research Projects

Conserving a Local Oxbow Wetland in West Seneca, NY: Restoration Plan Development and Implementation in the Buffalo River Watershed

Key terms:

Buffalo River, Oxbow, Invasive Species Removal, Restoration, Watershed Plan, Wetland

The West Seneca Oxbow Wetland - Project Summary

In 2009, ERIE IGERT trainees began collaborating with Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper (BNRK) and the West Seneca Environmental Commission on a project to protect and restore a local oxbow wetland in West Seneca, NY. 

Wetlands are an important part of the watershed as they provide habitat for a diversity of plants and animals, absorb and store stormwater runoff, filter nutrients and pollutants, moderate stream temperatures and improve stream water quality.  The West Seneca Oxbow Wetland is one of only three major wetlands in the lower Buffalo River Watershed.  As it is located approximately two miles upstream from the industrialized Buffalo River Area of Concern (AOC) (click here for map), the wetland is considered a source of future habitat and restoration in the AOC and planning studies have recommended it be protected.

The restoration of the oxbow wetland began in 2008 as part of the Buffalo River Watershed and AOC restoration effort.  The project was led by the BNRK and funded by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.  BNRK petitioned New York State to delineate and protect the wetland under the state’s wetland regulations and facilitated the transfer of a central 14-acre parcel from the Estate of Robert A. Jacobs to the Town of West Seneca, with a conservation easement protecting it in perpetuity as a nature preserve. 

In Fall 2009, six ERIE trainees became involved in the restoration project through their ERIE Ecosystem Restoration Practicum Course. They donated over 1000 hours in fieldwork and analysis of flora, fauna, soils and groundwater.  The trainees developed a habitat restoration and management plan for the 14-acre parcel of the oxbow. The plan used an adaptive management framework to control invasive plant species and reintroduce native plants to the site based on historical and nearby reference communities. 

Next, ERIE trainees assisted BNRK with the removal of invasive plant species such as Japanese knotweed and Phragmites in the spring of 2010, using a variety of test methods including digging, repeated cutting, and over-planting with selected aggressive native species with high wildlife value. Over the year, approximately 7,000 square feet of invasive species were removed and over 100 native trees and shrubs planted.

As West Seneca town officials and residents will be responsible for the long term monitoring and management of the oxbow wetland restoration plan, it was important to involve this community. ERIE trainees made several public presentations, including one to a neighboring high school demonstrating the oxbow’s potential contribution to the science curriculum.  In addition, as part of a education packet promoting watershed stewardship BNRK prepared a “Watershed Owners Manual” and a “Know Your Backyard” booklet for town residents, government representatives and officials in adjacent Towns in the Buffalo River Watershed.

ERIE trainees are still excited about the project and many plan to continue helping out at the site in the future. To see pictures of the Oxbow and ERIE trainees working on the project (courtesy of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, click here.


ERIE Fellows: Nate Drag (American Studies); Bernie Clabeaux (Biology); Stacey Blersch and Shannon Seneca (Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering); Michael Habberfield (Geography); and Robert Earle (Philosophy)

Faculty: David Blersch and Alan Rabideau (Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering)

Research Partners/Collaborators:Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper (grant recipient); West Seneca Environmental Commission; and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (project sponsor)

Related Links/Articles:

ERIE West Seneca Oxbow Wetland Fact Sheet

14-acre wetlands donation ensures protected habitat, focus for research (Buffalo News Article)

West Seneca Bee Article

UB's Ecosystem Experts to Discuss Why West Seneca Wetland Should Be Restored (UB Press Release)


Updated 9/2010