Human health and happiness are closely connected to our ecosystem, particularly the hydrosphere. The ocean offers benefits for food, medicine, mental and physical health, managing temperature, reducing CO2 and global warming, and protecting coastlines. On the other hand, the way that these resources are provided can be altered to act as stressors on human health. Environmental solutions and health concerns are becoming more widely recognised on national and international levels, attracting global participation, and maintaining the Sustainable Development Goals as a top political priority. The reason behind this is negative changes in the world’s oceans are becoming costs to human well-being.

India’s coastal habitats, which span 42,808 square kilometres, are made up of sandy beaches, marshes, mud flats, streams, rocky beaches, mangroves, and coral reefs.[1] Food and nutritional security, as well as economic and social upliftment, are mostly influenced by aquaculture, marine and coastal tourism, mining, and ecosystem services like purification of water, temperature and atmospheric control, severe weather conditions, and erosion safety. These systems are under strain from unsustainable development habits, pollution, habitat destruction, overexploitation of resources, and changes in climate.


A significant global issue is that carbon dioxide (CO2) is building up in the oceans of the planet and contributing to ongoing ocean acidification. As humans extract, burn, and promote deforestation, CO2 levels in the atmosphere are increasing and at present are much higher than in pre-industrial times. A quarter of the CO2 that is released into the atmosphere is taken up by the oceans, where it combines with seawater to produce carbonic acid, lowering pH levels, increasing acidification, and altering the chemistry of carbonates.[2] Marine ecosystems are being exposed to certain conditions which they have not experienced in the past years, as a result of such changes, which are taking place at a huge scale and at an unparalleled rate.[3]

It is not true that all water will become acidic as a result of the acidification of ocean water or any other sort of seawater. It does not indicate that the seawater would taste sour or that dipping our hands in it would cause our hands to burn. Why was the term “acidification” initially coined by the scientific community? Since 7 is the neutral pH, it is known that when measuring the pH of seawater, a number more than 7 denotes an alkaline or basic solution, whilst a number lower than 7 denotes an acidic one. Pure distilled water is an example of a pH that is neutral.[4] Since the pH of normal seawater is usually in the alkaline range of 8 and above, it is considered to have become acidic when the pH drops below that.[5]

It has been demonstrated that ocean acidification negatively affects a wide range of organisms, from fish to microorganisms. As acidification progresses, many species may need to use more energy to maintain their acid-base balance, or other biological functions, which will have a negative impact on their ability to reproduce, grow, and survive. Among the globe’s most ecologically complex, diverse, and important marine ecosystems are Coral reefs.[6] Coral reefs in the Indian Ocean have undergone several significant and quick modifications.[7] Therefore, approximately almost half of the laboratory-tested organisms and species have depicted adverse responses to ocean acidification.[8]


It seems simple to fix this as the solubility of carbon dioxide is to blame. The issue of why significant amounts of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere is another issue.

When humans use a lot of energy for development, whether it be military, industrial, or transportation, where fossil fuels are used, a lot of carbon dioxide is emitted into the air.


The four ways that ocean acidification might harm people’s health are as follows:

(1) respiratory illnesses as a result of bad air quality;

(2) effects on mental health as a result of changes to natural places; and

(3) hunger and poisoning as a result of changes in food quantity and quality

(4) The ability to produce and obtain therapeutic resources is hampered by biodiversity loss.

Fisheries and aquaculture produce food, which is a significant resource provided by the oceans both historically and worldwide. The physiology of eating marine animals can be directly impacted by ocean acidification and associated chemical alterations during crucial life stages, decreasing their chances of survival and, as a result, their abundance. The nutritional value of already widely available seafood could be diminished by ocean acidification, especially in terms of lipids and proteins. For instance, the amount of lipids and proteins in a type of cultured whelk decreased as a result of ocean acidification.[9] By changing species relationships, ocean acidification might have indirect challenges on nutritional value.[10]

We depend on the oceans to provide us with seafood, but not all of it is safe to consume due to pollution, which raises the chemical concentrations in the food. Numerous substances that humans produce in the environment can be ingested by organisms, move through the food chain, accumulate in tissues of higher trophic levels, including humans, and alter physiology. These contaminants mainly enter the environment through municipal discharges, specifically badly treated sewage.[11] Chemicals can jeopardise the safety of human food when they are present in incredibly high amounts. Ocean acidification has been shown to have an impact on the bioavailability of pollutants, increase exposure, and elevate effects across all species, from genes to ecosystems, these effects can affect the spread of toxins through the marine environment.[12]


Biodiversity Preservation

While ocean acidification is one of the most urgent issues in terms of preserving the world’s biological diversity, climate change also presents various additional challenges for biodiversity conservation. Using management strategies that promote diversity, such as ecosystem-based management, restoration projects, or marine protected areas (MPAs), species may be able to avoid extinction due to acidification. Some people are worried that these measures don’t always take population-level effects into account. Even though these strategies might be helpful, they face challenges in terms of funding and competing interests.

Improving Water Quality Management at the Local Level

Ocean acidification happens in conjunction with locally produced changes rather than independently from other environmental changes. Through outputs from industrial and wastewater facilities, agricultural discharge, and urban runoff, the rise of human population centres has affected the water quality of receiving marine environments. There is mounting evidence that such pollutants could enhance the composition of the ecosystems and species on which humans rely, and that upcoming global changes like ocean acidification may exacerbate these changes. As a result, effective monitoring of aquatic ecosystems will be essential to controlling the change that stresses on a global scale will cause.

Monitoring Activities of Humans Adaptation

It is inevitable that efforts to manage socio-ecological systems adaptively will be required to adapt to ocean changes. Ocean acidification can be adapted by people in order to benefit from favourable prospects or minimise harm (for example, by viewing thriving organisms as a resource). As a result, fisheries and aquaculture may be adapted by gradually changing management strategies based on new experiences and insights.


Ocean acidification is projected to produce intricate changes in the occurrence of individual species and ecological infrastructure, with beneficial repercussions for human health and well-being. Human health and well-being may be negatively impacted by changes to the food supply and food quality, respiratory issues, issues with mental and physical health, and the treatment of diseases brought on by acidification. Ocean acidification is getting adverse due to a combination of climate change and other environmental stressors, necessitating the development of alternative solutions. However, it is important to look at the combined effects of ocean acidification, climate change, and other environmental pressures. Additionally, we must assess the trade-offs and feedback that come from several pertinent environmental factors, as well as modifications in demographics and human behaviour (e.g., population movements and regional conflicts). We must emphasise strategies like biodiversity conservation, and flexibility in human activity that is pertinent for adaptation and planning in this ecosystem.

Author(s) Name: Anubhuti Sharma (Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, New Delhi)


[1] Mainstreaming Biodiversity into Coastal and Marine Fisheries Sector- Fact Sheets, Centre for Biodiversity Policy and Law National Biodiversity Authority < https://www.bobpigo.org/webroot/img/pdf/Mainstreaming-Biodiversity-into-Coastal-and-Marine-Fisheries-Sector-Fact-sheets.pdf > accessed on February 14, 2023.

[2] ‘Ocean Acidification’, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration <https://www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/ocean-coasts/ocean-acidification#:~:text=The%20ocean%20absorbs%20about%2030,by%20the%20ocean%20also%20increases > accessed on February 14, 2023.

[3] Ibid.

[4] < https://www.usgs.gov/special-topics/water-science-school/science/ph-and-water > accessed on February 14, 2023.

[5] Ibid.

[6] ‘The Importance of Coral Reefs’, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration <https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/tutorial_corals/coral07_importance.html > accessed on February 15, 2023.

[7] Status Report 2005- Coral Reef Degradation in the Indian Ocean <https://www.iucn.org/sites/default/files/import/downloads/cordio_status_report_2005.pdf > accessed on February 15, 2023.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Sean D. Connell, Lora E. Fleming, Bruse Maycock, ‘Ocean Acidification and Human Health’, (June 24, 2020) < https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7344635/ > accessed on February 15, 2023.

[10] Ibid.

[11] <https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/municipal-wastewater > accessed on February 15, 2023.

[12] Sean D. Connell, Lora E. Fleming, Bruse Maycock, ‘Ocean Acidification and Human Health’, (June 24, 2020) < https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7344635/ > accessed on February 15, 2023.

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