This photo represents a typical old growth (white tribe) oak tree surrounded by a novel configuration of weedy trees. The open crown of the oak suggests the oak emerged in an open landscape, or Savanna. The savanna was maintained by herbivores grazing and grooming the vegetation (a 20 million year co-evolutionary event), and more recently by humans using fire to manage native pastures to produce more game.
Think how this tree knew elk, bison, Native Americans, passenger pigeons, watch the first white settlers arrive, as Aldo Leopold said, “…the best historian we have left”.
When the herbivores and humans using fire are removed, the savanna rapidly declines in ecosystem function and production. Soon the highly edible plants are replaced by non-edible weedy vegetation, and the 20 million year co-evolutionary event de-evolves into a completely dysfunctional ecosystem.
You walk through any park, drive down any road, and look up into the “woods” and see these old oaks everywhere. They are dying. I can hear them crying.., can you?