Dying Spruce Grove trees can’t be cured 

You can blame building development, a beaver, bogs of brackish water and beetles, for the demise of the Spruce Grove spruce trees.

For years locals have been watching as the majestic and towering spruce trees off Blackcomb Way in Spruce Grove slowly die.

At the root of the problem is too much water which is basically drowning the trees.

"They are just curling up their toes," said municipal landscape supervisor Paul Beswetherick.

"All the water that used to travel off the lost lake hillside and into the Fitzsimmons Creek is now being prevented from doing that (because of the Spruce Grove subdivision).

"So it travels north and basically right through the whole Spruce Grove sports field complex and that has put a lot of water into that soil and means the soil is waterlogged and the trees are just not getting enough air to the roots.

"Unfortunately the development of the Spruce Grove subdivision is one of the major causes of the expiry of these trees."

Not only is the extra water hurting the trees it is putting stress on them, which in turn courts another problem.

"(The spruce) are sending out tree stress signals which are attracting things like the Spruce Bark Beetle," said Beswetherick.

"So what you are seeing is a combination of an attack by Spruce Bark Beetle and water effect because of changes in the drainage of the whole area."

Female Spruce Bark Beetles bore through the bark of the tree into the phloem tissue of the tree and burrow out an extensive egg gallery. These eggs then hatch into hungry white grubs and increase the gallery size by gorging on tree tissue until they are about 1/4 inch long.

By the following spring they pupate for about two weeks then winter as mature adults before swarming again the next spring.

Currently there are no effective organic or non-chemical prevention materials available to fight the beetle.

Two other phenomena have also played a role in the death of the spruce.

From 1997 until 2001 an industrious beaver put a dam on every inch of water he could, causing even more water to gather in the area. And two years ago lightening struck and killed four trees.

Beswetherick said the municipality has consulted experts on how to save the adult trees but at this point it doesn’t look like it is possible.

Instead the resort is planting young trees within the grove.

"A mature tree can’t tolerate major changes in its environment whereas younger trees can," said Beswetherick.

"So, the older the tree, the less tolerant it is to changes around its rooting structure and changes to the water depth and the soil depth. Young trees can take those kinds of changes.

"We are looking at a long term solution where those trees will move on and there will be trees to replace them, so the dynamic changes a little bit."

Some of the dead and dying trees will have to be cut down as they pose a threat to existing structures. But the municipality generally prefers to leave dead trees standing where possible.

As they decay naturally, said Beswetherick, they start to provide habitat for other creatures, such as woodpeckers.

A1997 environmental report titled An Environmental Inventory and Assessment of the Proposed Spruce Grove Subdivision talks about buffers and surrounding area protection.

However, the authors of the report could not be reached for comment to discuss what if any study was done on the how the subdivision would affect the spruce grove off Blackcomb Way.


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