A wide range of organisms, from bacteria to fish, have been demonstrated to be negatively impacted by ocean acidification. As acidification progresses, many organisms must invest additional energy to maintain their acid-base balance, metabolic processes, or other biological functions, with consequences for their growth, reproduction, and survival. Consequently, around 50% of all the species tested in the laboratory have shown negative responses to ocean acidification. On the other hand, some photosynthetic organisms can benefit from the increased concentration of CO2where it is used for photosynthesis.Such changes at the organism level can modify the balance between species and drive profound ecosystem changes that influence human health and well-being. Negative impacts of ocean acidification are already visible in some parts of the world; for example, theobserved collapse of the oyster aquaculture industry along the west coast of the United States in 2007has been attributed to ocean acidification. Such impacts, and consequences on human health and well-being, are anticipated to intensify with future acidification.
In a recent article in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, entitledOcean Acidification and Human Health,scientistslook at how ocean acidification effectshuman health and well-being. This perspectiveinvolves understanding substantial complexity, making this particular driver one of the more challenging to comprehend and manage. Compared to studies of other stressors, which tend to focus on direct effects (extreme events such as floods or storms, enrichment of chemical additives, or persistent elevated temperature), ocean acidification manifests in layers of complexity involving indirect effects and interactions. While studies of ocean acidification initially focused on the potential direct effects, research now incorporates the ecosystem-level complexity of indirect effects.
"Ocean acidification will impact humans in many more ways than are traditionally considered. It has wide-ranging implications including the accessibility and quality of food that we eat, it will affect the air that we breathe, the medicine we need and the views that we enjoy", saysDr. Richard Bellerby, professor and chief scientist at The Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) and co-authorof the recent paper.
As such, the authors highlight here that ocean acidification is very much an emerging human health issue of substantially greater complexity, and possibly scale, than currently appreciated.Given howocean acidificationimpacts on human health and well-being, recognizing and researching these complexities may allow the adaptation of management such that not only harms to human health are reduced, but the benefits enhanced.
"Our study highlights the urgent need for interdisciplinary, cross-sector research to understand and prepare for challenges linking ocean acidification with social development under climate change", Bellerby concludes.