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General sketch-map of a tidal plain, showing the typical tripartition in supratidal, intertidal and subtidal zones. The most apparent character of the area is the development of tidal channels, affecting mainly the intertidal zone. In this case, the tidal flat is protected seaward by a beach barrier, but in many cases (low-energy waves and longshore currents) the tidal flats may directly pass into a shallow marine environment.

Mudflats or mud flats, also known as tidal flats, are coastal wetlands that form when mud is deposited by tides or rivers. They are found in sheltered areas such as bays, bayous, lagoons, and estuaries. Mudflats may be viewed geologically as exposed layers of bay mud, resulting from deposition of estuarine silts, clays and marine animal detritus. Most of the sediment within a mudflat is within the intertidal zone, and thus the flat is submerged and exposed approximately twice daily.

In the past tidal flats were considered unhealthy, economically unimportant areas and were often dredged and developed into agricultural land.[1] Several especially shallow mudflat areas, such as the Wadden Sea, are now popular among those practising the sport of mudflat hiking.

On the Baltic Sea coast of Germany in places, mudflats are exposed not by tidal action, but by wind-action driving water away from the shallows into the sea. These wind-affected mudflats are called windwatts in German.


Mudflats near Oban on Stewart Island, New Zealand

Tidal flats, along with intertidal salt marshes and mangrove forests, are important ecosystems.[2] They usually support a large population of wildlife, and are a key habitat that allows tens of millions of migratory shorebirds to migrate from breeding sites in the northern hemisphere to non-breeding areas in the southern hemisphere. They are often of vital importance to migratory birds, as well as certain species of crabs,[3] mollusks and fish.[4] In the United Kingdom mudflats have been classified as a Biodiversity Action Plan priority habitat.

The maintenance of mudflats is important in preventing coastal erosion. However, mudflats worldwide are under threat from predicted sea level rises, land claims for development, dredging due to shipping purposes, and chemical pollution. In some parts of the world, such as East and South-East Asia, mudflats have been reclaimed for aquaculture, agriculture, and industrial development. For example, around the Yellow Sea region of East Asia, more than 65% of mudflats have been destroyed over the past 50 years.[5][6]


Mudflat sediment deposits are focused into the intertidal zone which is composed of a barren zone, marsh and salt pan. Within these areas are various ratios of sand and mud that make up the sedimentary layers.[7] The associated growth of coastal sediment deposits can be attributed to rates of subsidence along with rates of deposition (example: silt transported via river) and changes in sea level.[7]

Barren zones extend from the lowest portion of the intertidal zone to the marsh areas. Beginning in close proximity to the tidal bars, sand dominated layers are prominent and become increasingly muddy throughout the tidal channels. Common bedding types include laminated sand, ripple bedding, and bay mud. Bioturbation also has a strong presence in barren zones.

Marshes contain an abundance of herbaceous plants while the sediment layers consist of thin sand and mud layers. Mudcracks are a common as well as wavy bedding planes.[7] Marshes are also the origins of coal/peat layers because of the abundant decaying plant life.[7]

Salt pans can be distinguished in that they contain thinly laminated layers of clayey silt. The main source of the silt comes from rivers. Dried up mud along with wind erosion forms silt dunes. When flooding, rain or tides come in, the dried sediment is then re-distributed.[7]

Selected example areas[edit]

Mudflats in Brewster, Massachusetts, United States, extending hundreds of yards offshore at the low tide. The line of seashells in the foreground indicates the high-water mark.
Gulls feeding on mudflats in Skagit Bay, Washington.


  1. ^ Dredging Indian River Lagoon Wetlands 1920 - 1950s
  2. ^ Tidal flat habitats
  3. ^ Mud crab (Scylla serrata) culture in tidal flats with existing mangroves
  4. ^ Manko - Tidal Flat, Mangrove Forest
  5. ^ MacKinnon, J.; Verkuil, Y.I.; Murray, N.J. (2012), IUCN situation analysis on East and Southeast Asian intertidal habitats, with particular reference to the Yellow Sea (including the Bohai Sea), Occasional Paper of the IUCN Species Survival Commission No. 47, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: IUCN, p. 70, ISBN 9782831712550 
  6. ^ Murray, N.J.; Clemens, R.S.; Phinn, S.R.; Possingham, H.P.; Fuller, R.A. (2014), "Tracking the rapid loss of tidal wetlands in the Yellow Sea", Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 12 (5): 267–272, doi:10.1890/130260 /
  7. ^ a b c d e Reineck, H.E, and I.B Singh, Deposistional Sedimentary Environments, 2nd Ed. New York: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 1980, pp. 418-428

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mudflat — Please support Wikipedia.
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1391 news items

Deutsche Welle

Deutsche Welle
Thu, 15 Oct 2015 05:16:33 -0700

Off-season in St. Peter-Ording: Gift shops and mudflat safaris. Over 200,000 vacationers converge on the North Sea coast's fine holiday resorts annually. In autumn, they have a special charm. St. Peter Ording, Copyright: DW/Oliver Schindler. The sun ...

Press Herald

Press Herald
Sat, 17 Oct 2015 14:35:12 -0700

BANGKOK — A construction worker on a fishing trip dramatically rescued two Norwegian bird watchers who were sinking into a mudflat in southern Thailand, lying down in the mud to allow the pair to use his body to pry themselves to safety. The incident ...


Fri, 20 Nov 2015 10:00:00 -0800

The researchers tested whether male crabs living in and defending burrows responded to approaching targets on the mudflat over distances proportional to the polarization contrast of the target. The experimental 'target' was a weighted sled pulled along ...

Springfield News-Leader

Springfield News-Leader
Wed, 11 Nov 2015 16:00:00 -0800

Life cycle: This bird can be seen here in fall and spring when local marshes and mudflat areas serve as stop-overs on migration flights. Courtship and breeding occurs in late spring and early summer in the western U.S. and Canada. Females pursue males ...

Worcester Telegram

Worcester Telegram
Sat, 31 Oct 2015 00:52:30 -0700

BOYLSTON - Andrea Brown and Chiyoko Lee agree that art can be functional. The two potters from Mudflat Pottery Studio in Somerville might have different techniques, but it's clear they both strive to create pieces that are both beautiful and serve a ...
Point Reyes Light
Thu, 12 Nov 2015 10:00:00 -0800

You will pass through estuary, mudflat, chaparral, back dunes, foredunes, inner beach, foreshore and tidal wash. A complete ecological system is laid out here and a complex world of plants, insects, worms, crustaceans, birds and mammals is deeply woven ...
Point Reyes Light
Thu, 12 Nov 2015 10:00:00 -0800

The most recent alleged violation is for depositing oyster shell—approximately 2,000 square feet of it, eight inches deep—on a bay mudflat near one of its piers, though outside its lease area, without a permit. The violation notice, delivered last ...

Audubon Magazine Blog

Audubon Magazine Blog
Fri, 30 Oct 2015 14:35:02 -0700

More alarming is the count at Putemún's magnificent mudflat, at the base of Rilán, not far from Pullao. “At Putemún we could always rely on seeing 3,000 to 4,000 godwits on any given day, with peaks of 7,000, in years past,” Valenzuela said. In recent ...

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