What Is the Food Chain in the Tundra Biome?

The arctic tundra biome supports a food chain that begins with plants as primary producers at the bottom. Herbivores consume the plants; and, primary small omnivores hunt the herbivores. Secondary or larger predator carnivores hunt both the herbivores and smaller omnivores.

Life in the tundra involves an inhospitable, cold temperature environment of rocky, treeless plains that encircle the north pole. The arctic tundra food chain, or web, starts with plants or primary producers, such as lichens, liverworts, fungus, mosses, grasses and small shrubs. They hug the ground because of extremely cold temperatures, low precipitation, wind and low-nutrient soil. The first level consumers who live off of the producers are the herbivore mammals, such as pika, musk ox, caribou, lemming and arctic hare. These herbivores in turn provide food for the second level consumers, the smaller predators and omnivores, such as several arctic seal species, arctic fox or brown bear. The third level consumers consist of higher level, larger predator carnivores, such as the arctic wolf, snowy owl and polar bear. Humans are top level consumers that typically eat a combination of lower-level animals and plants, according to Ohio State University Life on the Tundra.

Decomposers, including bacteria and fungi, complete the web by breaking down organic matter and waste materials. Perhaps the most unique feature of the tundra biome remains the permafrost, or permanently frozen ground, where only the first few inches of the ground unfreeze briefly during high summer.