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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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730 news items

Global Warming (blog)
Tue, 16 Dec 2014 11:34:02 -0800

... water possessed a “significant nexus” to navigable waters and were therefore subject to federal power. In practice, the test is so amorphous that every ditch, vernal pond, playa lake, mudflat, sandflat, and slough could easily fall under the EPA's ...

OPP Connect

OPP Connect
Thu, 18 Dec 2014 07:22:30 -0800

In Hobookenweg in the desirable mudflat region of Kampen, prices of up to €35,000 per square metre takes 16th place. Los Cabos, at the southern tip of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, lies in 17th place. In the exclusive El Dorado Golf & Beach ...

OPP Connect

OPP Connect
Thu, 18 Dec 2014 07:25:49 -0800

In Hobookenweg in the desirable mudflat region of Kampen, prices of up to €35,000 per square metre takes 16th place. Los Cabos, at the southern tip of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, lies in 17th place. In the exclusive El Dorado Golf & Beach ...

Somerville Beat

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Fri, 28 Nov 2014 04:16:29 -0800

Mudflat Open Studio and Pottery Sale: East Somerville's Mudflat Studio (81 Broadway) is hosting an Open Studio and Pottery Sale from December 5-December 14 where you can explore the work of nearly 100 artists and shop for handmade gifts. A portion of ...

Bay Nature

Bay Nature
Wed, 10 Dec 2014 17:53:57 -0800

Since the 1980s it has been the consistent goal of regional, state and federal agencies to reverse that decline, and in 2003 a consortium of government agencies acquired 15,000 acres of land from the Cargill Salt Company to restore to tidal marsh ...

Bellingham Herald

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Wed, 17 Sep 2014 08:04:43 -0700

The Mudflat Walkers, featuring singer Matney Cook, hosts an all-ages CD release party for the band's new recording, “Sky Valley High,” at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, at Bellingham Circus Guild's Cirq Lab, 1401 Sixth St. The evening includes food vendors ...

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Sat, 13 Dec 2014 09:51:38 -0800

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Fri, 28 Nov 2014 22:09:41 -0800

“I remember going to a mudflat and seeing this alga called Gracilaria everywhere,” Byers said. “And people were like 'Oh, it's that.'” The branching mud-colored seaweed is native to Japan, where it's farmed for the gelling agent agar. It's already a ...

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