Artificial intelligence has revealed a significant loss of crucial intertidal ecosystems.

The new study shows that global foreshore environments declined by up to 16 per cent between 1984 and 2016.

The intertidal zone - the area between low and high tide lines - protects more than 625 million people around the world from storms and sea level rises.

Experts say identifying areas where intertidal zones are being lost to development and rising seas is critical to safeguard coastal communities.

The study used artificial intelligence known as machine-learning to analyse more than 700,000 satellite images to map changing global distribution of intertidal areas over a 30-year period.

“It required nearly one million hours of computation, run on 22,000 machines via the Google Earth Engine,” said researcher Dr Nick Murray.

“We applied machine learning classifiers to every pixel from each satellite image available to us from along the world’s coastlines.”

As well as revealing concerning ecosystem loss, the findings lay the groundwork for a global coastal monitoring system for international conservation and sustainable development targets.

“A system like this could enable scientists, governments and the wider community to take stock of the services that coastal ecosystems provide,” Dr Murray said.

The team created an online app - the Intertidal Change Explorer - offering open access to the dataset and supporting its use to understand and conserve coastal ecosystems worldwide.