The primary producers – the men on the shop floor

The primary producers, or the ”men on the shop floor”, are the real creators of wealth in the Arctic. It is they who transform plain stone into gold – or in this case solar energy into carbohydrates. Without a solid workforce at the base, the organisms higher up in the company would have little to build on.

Sunlight is the key for the primary producers in the sea and on land (the phytoplankton and the terrestrial plants) because these organisms perform photosynthesis, producing carbohydrates that are used for growth and reproduction, and they are important for the other organisms in the Arctic which do not make their own carbohydrates, but which eat the primary producers and are dependent upon them to survive, grow and reproduce. This is the first step in the arctic food pyramid.

Plankton life-cycleThe sun appears over the horizon in April and supplies light to support the growth of ice algae and phytoplankton. When the sun is at its highest in June, production peaksand the zooplankton thrive on this superabundance of food. The production gradually declines during the season as the phytoplankton use up the nutrients in the water, and when the sun once more sinks below the horizon the plankton hibernate until the next growing season.
Illustration: Alexander Keck & Paul Wassmann (1993), modified by Frøydis Strand, NFH, University of Tromsø