Through natural processes, oxbow lakes usually have a limited life span before sediment build up transforms them into marshes and the subject of natural succession, or they become reconnected to the main river in times of flooding. Other threats are man made. The damming of rivers, flood defences and the diversion of rivers together with floodplain development has reduced the ability of rivers to "spread" out and find their natural course, over their natural floodplain.
Oxbow lakes are lakes or ponds found in association with river channels. When a river channel becomes obstructed by silt and debris, the river will often cut a new channel around the obstruction. With time the obstructed area may become completely cut off from the river and begin developing as a lake. Over time an oxbow lake may become filled with organic material and be transformed into a marsh. Oxbow lakes may be defined as semi-closed water body systems.