Roads destroy natural habitats. To reduce erosion, support wildlife and decorate surroundings, ornamental trees are planted near the roadside. However, it is inadequately understood how roads influence fruit production of trees and birds that consume their fruits, within urban landscapes. During the autumn and winter of 2012–2013, we studied the extent to which birds used the fruit from rowanberry trees (Sorbus aucuparia), in two cities along a 700 km latitudinal gradient in Finland. In matched pair design (total of 35 pairs), we compared roadside trees (approximately 8 m from main roads) with trees grown away from roads (control trees; approximately >80 m from the roads). During the autumn, each rowanberry tree pair was photographed, and frugivorous birds were surveyed twice per month until all of the rowanberry fruit-crop was consumed. There was no difference in fruit crop size between roadside trees and control trees. A total of eight frugivorous bird species and 960 individuals were observed foraging in roadside trees. The three most abundant species were Bohemian waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus, 56.4%), Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator, 28.9%) and Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris, 10.5%). Total abundance and species richness of frugivorous birds were lower around roadside trees than control trees during most of the study period. Fruits were consumed later from roadside trees than from control trees, probably due to human-caused disturbance. Therefore, roadside rowanberry trees extended the period when frugivorous birds stayed in urban habitats. Later consumption of fruits in northern areas than in southern areas was related to earlier peak abundance of frugivorous birds in south than in north. Our results indicated that rowanberry is a suitable ornamental tree for urban and roadside landscaping and may additionally benefit birds and other frugivorous wildlife.
- Ekologia, evoluutiobiologia