A ruderal species is a plant species that is first to colonize disturbed lands. The disturbance may be natural – for example, wildfires or avalanches – or a consequence of human activity, such as construction (of roads, of buildings, mining, etc) or agriculture (abandoned fields, irrigation, etc).
Ruderal species typically dominate the disturbed area for a few years, gradually losing the competition to other native species. However, in extreme disturbance circumstances, such as when the natural topsoil is covered with a foreign substance, a single-species ruderal community may become permanently established, as depicted in the image on the right. In addition, some ruderal invasive species may have such a competitive advantage over the native species that they, too, may permanently prevent a disturbed area from returning to its original state despite natural topsoil.
Features contributing to a species' success as ruderal are:
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