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Geosciences LibreTexts

12.3 Arctic Ecosystems

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  • The Arctic is located at the top of the planet, and is home to the North Pole, where Santa Claus lives!! Average temperatures in this region range from -40 to 10˚C (-40 to 32˚F), and can drop as low as -50˚C (-58˚F) in the coldest winters. The main ocean in the Arctic would be the Arctic Ocean. The fact that it is largely covered in ice, and its relative isolation from most of the planet’s other oceans, makes this ocean unique.

    Life in the Arctic copes with the greatest fluctuations in light and temperature ever known on Earth. The Arctic has many daunting icebergs and snowcaps, freezing blizzards and winds, and not to mention, sheer darkness during cold winters. Nonetheless, this ocean is teeming with life and is home to one of the most inaccessible and beautiful environments on Earth. The top predator in the Arctic would most definitely be the great polar bears, which roam the Arctic ice and swim the Arctic seas. These predators feed on a variety of different organisms, including (but not limited to) plankton, fish, birds, seals, walruses, and even certain types of whales. Other animals would include the Bowhead Whale, the Beluga whale, the walrus, the narwhal, the Harp seal, the Bearded seal, the Lion Mane jellyfish, some species of fish (albeit not many), and krill. There is little plant to no life here, so the main source of photosynthesis (and the center of the food web that supports all life) in the Arctic would be phytoplankton, algae, and diatoms.

    However magnificent this ecosystem may be, global warming is changing the environment and threatening the stability of ocean life in the Arctic, putting it on thin ice. As the polar icecaps melt, the food web begins to change, and many species’ feeing and migration patterns are beginning to change. Some marine species are slowly becoming endangered (i.e. walruses and whales), and most organisms are slow to change and slow to recover from disruptions or damage.