Top Producers, Consumers and Decomposers in the Arctic Tundra

producers-consumers-decomposers-arctic-tundra Credit: Roberta Olenick/All Canada Photos/Getty Images

Producers in the arctic tundra include grass, moss plants, willow and reindeer lichen while consumers comprises of foxes, caribous, wolves, bears and birds like owls. Bacteria and fungi are examples of decomposers.

The tundra is a biome characterized by extremely cold climate, poor nutrients, little precipitation and short growing season. In addition, this climatic condition has low biodiversity, limited drainage, simple plants and large variations in populations. The arctic tundra is located in the Northern Hemisphere, specifically in Siberia, Canada and Alaska and has the following producers, consumers and decomposers.

The producers use energy from the sun and nutrients from the soil to make food. This process is known as photosynthesis. In the arctic tundra, some of the producers include the arctic moss, grass, tufted saxifrage, bearberry, Labrador tea, pasqueflower, reindeer lichen, willow and cotton grass.

These tundra plants have several adaptations that enable them to survive the cold weather and low precipitation levels. These plants have tiny leaves to reduce the loss of water and grow together close to the ground so as to minimize damage caused by effects of blown away ice particles. In addition, some tundra plants have the ability to grow under a layer of snow and carry out photosynthesis in extremely cold temperatures.

Consumers can be categorized into three groups: primary, secondary and tertiary consumers. Primary consumers feed on the producers while secondary consumers feed on primary consumers. The tertiary consumers are large carnivorous animals that feed on secondary consumers.

In the arctic tundra, primary consumers include caribous, lemmings, arctic hares and some species of birds that feed on plant materials. These herbivorous animals are well adapted to the consumption of low-nutrient plants and the subsequent low temperatures. Mid-level predators, such as the arctic fox and some species of predatory birds, form the secondary consumers. In addition, large animals, such as polar bears and wolves, are part of the tertiary consumers. Adaptations like thick fur coverings and an accumulation of large amounts of fat under the skin assists these predators to survive the harsh environmental conditions

Moreover, migration and hibernation are some of the behavioral adaptations of consumers in the tundra. For example, during the summer, the brown bears consume a lot of food materials which are stored in the body as fats. These bears later utilize the stored food during hibernation in the winter. On the other hand, some birds often migrate to warmer regions during the winter. Such behavioral adaptations enable the survival of some animals in such cold environmental conditions

Decomposers are responsible for the breakdown of dead producers and consumers in the food chain. They assist in the replenishment of the soil with necessary nutrients for plant growth. In the tundra, the decomposers include bacteria, lichens and fungus. Lichens are a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungi whereby the algae provide food for the fungi while the fungi support and protect the algae.

Decomposition by fungi and bacteria is highly dependent on temperatures since higher temperatures encourage the multiplication of these organisms and their subsequent metabolic processes. In this regard, the freezing temperatures of the tundra limit faster decomposition.