What Is Mutualism in a Grassland Biome?

Examples of mutualism in grassland biomes include the relationship between plant roots and their symbiotic fungi, as well as the relationships between termites and the protozoans that live in their digestive tracts. Regardless of what ecosystem it takes place in, mutualism is the interaction between two different species that benefits both organisms. It differs from other inter-species relationships, such as predation or parasitism.

While it is common to many plants from a variety of different habitats, most of the grasses, sedges and weeds of grasslands have helpful fungi on their roots. The fungi provide minerals and moisture to the plant’s roots, while the plants provide carbohydrates that feed the fungi. According to McDaniel College, some scientists believe these types of mutualistic relationships began with the fungi feeding parasitically on the plants roots. When the plants benefitted from the extra nutrients, they grew larger, produced more carbohydrates and caused the fungi population to blossom.

Another form of mutualism that occurs in the grassland is that between termites and the single-celled organisms that inhabit their guts. Termites feed on woody vegetation in grassland habitats. However, termites do not produce cellulase, the enzyme necessary to break down the cellulose that comprises wood cells. Instead, while they break down the wood into tiny pieces with their jaws, the true digestion takes place in their stomach, courtesy of the protozoans in their stomachs. The protozoans benefit from the plentiful food, while the termites benefit by enjoying a food source that few animals can eat.