Why an urban forester says many of Saskatoon's spruce trees could be at risk

A Saskatoon urban forester is raising concern over the decline of spruce trees in the city.

 David Kearns of Kearnsy Consulting and Educational Services says spruce trees have become drought-stressed from a lack of precipitation.

The stressed spruce trees create a smell that attracts bark beetles, in turn eating the trees and bringing other diseases.

“This issue is problematic because we do have a high population of spruce trees and almost everybody has one in some neighbourhoods,” Kearns told CTV News.

Kearns explains that spruce trees are “nature's filter” as they collect dust in the air and help control flooding.

They’re also part of urban forests and help animals such as woodpeckers with food sources.

“We won’t lose all the spruce trees but if we start having a heavy decline, then we start relying on other tree species to try to fill that void.”

Some signs of an unhealthy tree are yellowing of leaves, dead wood, flaking bark, dieback and excessive flowering.

Rory McIntosh is a provincial entomologist and pathologist and says the spruce tree decline isn’t a new issue as he’s received calls from the public for “quite a few years.”

“There’s a number of reasons for this, the trees are suffering primarily from abiotic or environmental and climate induced stressors.”

McIntosh says when the weather goes from a cold snap to warm weather quickly in the spring, it stresses out the trees.

Kearns says it can be “very frustrating” to see dying trees but the number one thing people can do to help is to properly care for their trees by watering and fertilizing.

Many spruce trees on the decline are on city property, according to Kearns.

“(City staff) don’t necessarily know if a tree is in decline, they actually hope that homeowners will call in and let them know if they see a tree in decline. That’s the best way to contact them and let them know so they can do something about it."

In an email to CTV News, the city’s park department said when issues arise it enacts a response plan to address the issue and mitigate any risk in the future.

“Spruce trees are no different, and will be given the care and attention they need and deserve,” the city said.

The city also encourages residents to request a tree inspection or to call Urban Forestry at 306-975-2890 and a certified arborist will inspect the tree within 10 business days.