Moss and grasses, snowshoe hares, arctic foxes and lichens are examples of producers, consumers and decomposers of the arctic. Only the hardiest species survive harsh arctic conditions year round.Continue Reading
Producers comprise all of those organisms that can produce their own food, typically via photosynthesis. Due to seasonally low temperatures, high winds and a permafrost layer, life is difficult for arctic plants. Most arctic producers are low-lying plants, such as moss, grass and sedge, although dwarf shrubs and trees also exist. Arctic plants have small leaves to help conserve water.
Consumers fall into three categories: primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary consumers feed directly on producers. In the arctic, primary consumers are small mammals, such as lemming and snowshoe hares, and birds, such as ptarmigans. Mid-level predators, such as arctic foxes and ermines, typify arctic secondary consumers. At the highest levels of the food chain are tertiary consumers. Arctic wolves and polar bears are mammalian tertiary consumers in the arctic. Large birds of prey, such as snowy owls and great gray owls, are also tertiary consumers.
Decomposers break down dead or inorganic material for food. Lichens are an important decomposer in the arctic. Lichens are actually a symbiotic relationship between an algae and a fungus. The algae helps to provide food for the fungus, while the fungus supports and protects the algae. Despite the arctic permafrost, some soil bacteria as well as invertebrates, such as earthworms and millipedes, are present. Scavenging by arctic foxes is also a form of decomposition.Learn more about Antarctica