Mudflats or mud flats, also known as tidal flats or, in Ireland, slob or slobs,[1][2] are coastal wetlands that form in intertidal areas where sediments have been deposited by tides or rivers. A global analysis published in 2019 suggested that tidal flat ecosystems are as extensive globally as mangroves, covering at least 127,921 km2 (49,391 sq mi) of the Earth's surface.[3] They are found in sheltered areas such as bays, bayous, lagoons, and estuaries; they are also seen in freshwater lakes and salty lakes (or inland seas) alike, wherein many rivers and creeks end.[4] Mudflats may be viewed geologically as exposed layers of bay mud, resulting from deposition of estuarine silts, clays and aquatic 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.

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.

A recent global remote sensing analysis estimated that approximately 50% of the global extent of tidal flats occurs within eight countries (Indonesia, China, Australia, United States, Canada, India, Brazil, and Myanmar) and that 44% of the world's tidal flats occur within Asia (56,051 km2 or 21,641 sq mi).[3]

In the past tidal flats were considered unhealthy, economically unimportant areas and were often dredged and developed into agricultural land.[5] 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. This kind of wind-affected mudflat is called Windwatt in German.

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