Based on biophysical ice-core data collected in the landfast ice off Barrow, Alaska, USA, in 2002 and 2003, a one-dimensional ice–ocean ecosystem model was developed to determine the factors controlling the bottom-ice algal community. The data and model results revealed a three-stage ice-algal bloom: (1) onset and early slow growth stage before mid-March, when growth is limited by light; (2) fast growth stage with increased light and sufficient nutrients; and (3) decline stage after late May as ice algae are flushed out of the ice bottom. Stages 2 and 3 are either separated by a transition period as in 2002 or directly connected by ice melting as in 2003, when in situ light and nutrient enrichment experiments showed only light limitations. The modeled net primary production of ice algae (NPPAi) from March to June is 1.2 and 1.7 g Cm–2 for 2002 and 2003, respectively, within the range of previous observations. Model sensitivity studies found that overall NPPAi increased almost proportionally to the initial nutrient concentrations in the water column. A phytoplankton bloom (if it occurs as in 2002) would compete with ice algae for nutrients and lead to reduced NPPAi. About 45% of the NPPAi was exported to the shallow benthos.