Hemiparasites Benefit Their Hosts At The Species And Ecosystem Levels
Donald A. Windsor
Hemiparasites are photosynthetic plants that parasitize free-living plants to obtain nutrients (1).
Growth of the host plants can be stunted by the hemiparasites, thus allowing more sunlight to reach lower growing plants and increasing biodiversity.
Hemiparasites benefit prairie ecosystems similar to the way grazing animals do, by preventing the taller plants from taking over. For this reason they are sometimes called "pseudograzers" (2).
Individual hemiparasites harm their individual hosts, but the hemiparasites as species benefit other species, and the resulting biodiversity benefits the ecosystem. All species in the ecosystem benefit from the ecosystem staying intact.
1. Těšitel, Jakub ; Plavcova, Lenka ; Cameron, Duncan. Interactions between hemiparasitic plants and their hosts: The importance of organic carbon transfer. Plant Signaling & Behavior 2010 August; 5(9): 1072-1076.
2. DiGiovanni, Jane P. ; Wysocki, William P. ; Burke, Sean V. ; Duvall, Melvin R. ; Barber, Nicholas A. The role of hemiparasitic plants: influencing tallgrass prairie quality, diversity, and structure. Restoration Ecology 2017 May; 25(3): 405-413.