I just finished reading A State of Change: Forgotten Landscapes of California by Laura Cunningham. The author uses her experience as a biologist and artist to reconstruct ecosystems and interactions of California's past using what we know of nature today. You do not need to be a biologist to appreciate this experience. The book will take you to California's shoreline, oak savannas, a pristine Delta ecosystem, and deserts, allowing you to observe the interactions among plant and wildlife as it existed in the past. But this is not just a history book, either. The author uses her field work observing relict or remaining populations of natural life to reconstruct the past and explain how these landscapes continue to evolve today. For example, she vividly describes and sketches the majestic California condor and how it behaves with other birds based on hours of her own studies, and recounts her observation of elk herds being stalked by wolves in Yellowstone, where the two species still interact. She walks you through today's grasslands to explain how they once functioned with greater biological diversity.
After reading A State of Change I have a much better appreciation for the natural wonders that we have already lost--I feel as if I have personally experienced these "forgotten landscapes"--and I am more acutely aware of the natural wonders we must work to protect today.
You can find the book at Amazon --and it is available through the Desert Protective Council bookstore, which is the same as buying it from Amazon except a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Desert Protective Council's work.