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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 Enviornments, 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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63 news items

Saudi Gazette

Saudi Gazette
Sun, 20 Jul 2014 08:00:00 -0700

Participants of the mudflat sledge championships push their sledges through the wadden sea on Sunday in Upleward, northern Germany. The competition was titled “Dirty sports for a clean job” and was a charity event in favour of a regional association ...
Richmond News
Fri, 01 Aug 2014 10:38:04 -0700

As Brent Gurd, wildlife biologist for the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources - which manages the wildlife in the 5,100 hectare marsh and intertidal mudflat - notes: "We need to figure out what we can do quickly to reduce the risks ...
Richmond News
Fri, 01 Aug 2014 05:11:15 -0700

As Brent Gurd, wildlife biologist for the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources - which manages the wildlife in the 5,100 hectare marsh and intertidal mudflat - notes: "At some point we will have to act because not acting is not an ...


Thu, 31 Jul 2014 21:07:30 -0700

We have five species here: the Gulf mud fiddler (Uca longisignalis); the mudflat fiddler (U. rapax); the panacea sand fiddler (U. panacea); the red-jointed fiddler (U. minax and; the spined fiddler crab (U. spinicampa). Fiddler crabs are interesting ...
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 08:33:45 -0700

MARSH AND MUDFLAT MYSTERIES: 9 a.m. at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm. For ages 6-10. Grab your mud boots and explore the pools of the salt marsh, where minnows and eels swim to and fro, and search for clams and snails on the mudflat. Make your ...
BBC News
Fri, 25 Jul 2014 08:00:00 -0700

Participants of the mudflat sledge championships Participants in the mudflat sledge championships push their sledge through the Wadden Sea, northern Germany. The competition is a charity event supporting a regional association fighting against cancer.
The Korea Herald
Tue, 29 Jul 2014 04:37:30 -0700

“The mudflat was a bit of a logistical nightmare,” Lambert said with a chuckle. “We had about twice a day (to shoot) and sometimes it got really tricky because we needed either certain scenes at night or certain scenes during the day. “(The tide) never ...
Yale Environment 360
Mon, 28 Jul 2014 05:39:16 -0700

Ten or so yards out, where the mudflat met the open water, an array of gray stacked blocks made of marine limestone and oyster shell was already set out. Looking like the battlements of a buried castle, this permeable reef was designed to deflect and ...

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