I. Habitat Description
Most common in tidal environments, mudflats also occupy marginal areas of backwaters, estuaries, lakes, ponds, or shorelines that are prone to seasonal flooding and subsequently exposed to non-vegetated mud. Though typically barren, incursions of emergent vegetation, forbs, grasses, or sedges of less than 10% cover may be present. Water may be present depending on season or weather patterns.
II. Sensitivity to Oil Spills
Due to lack of vegetation and low biodiversity, mudflats are moderately sensitive to oil spills. On waterlogged flats, oil will remain on the surface if undisturbed by wind, rising water, rain, or human activity. Dried mudflats will crack, allowing for oil to seep under the surface. Many shorebirds, including the endangered interior population of Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) an the threatened Piping Plover (Charadrius medlodus), utilize mudflats to forage for insects and small crustaceans and to access water. Shorebirds are most sensitive in the early morning hours during the spring and fall. Mudflats are typically thought to not have great socioeconomic value, though they do serve as an important erosion deterrent.
III. Sensitivity to Response Methods
The following text describes potential adverse impacts to this habitat resulting from various oil spill response methods and provides recommendations to reduce impact when these methods are implemented. This is not intended to preclude the use of any particular methods, but rather to aid responders in balancing the need to remove oil with the possible adverse effects of removal. More detail about the response methods themselves can be found in the Inland Response Tactics Manual.