The primary producers in the arctic ecosystem are phytoplankton and plants, according to the Norwegian Polar Institute. Producers are classified as organisms that transform energy from the sun into carbohydrates.
Phytoplankton and ice algae are two critical water-based primary producers in the arctic, explains the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Terrestrial, or land-based, plants are also producers in the arctic. These primary producers provide the foundation for animals' growth and reproduction in the arctic region. Ice algae is a general name for the many types of algae that grow on the underside of sea ice. Like most plants, algae converts carbon dioxide into carbohydrates through the process of photosynthesis.
Phytoplankton also use this process, but are tiny free-floating plants, such as diatoms and dinoflagellates, found in the top layers of the ocean. Algae and phytoplankton are also found in fresh bodies of water on the arctic tundra. Terrestrial plants are the primary producers on land in the arctic.
There are few trees in the arctic, since its boundary is described by the northernmost end of the tree line, where trees can no longer grow due to the harsh arctic climate. Terrestrial primary producers are low-growing plants, such as lichens, mosses, grasses and shrubs.