This is a picture of the base of beech tree in my backyard in the Philadelphia area. I'm getting conflicting opinions as to the implications of the crack you see in the center of the tree. What is your opinion?
No, a vertical crack does not mean doom for the tree. Very common. Could be indicative of many other things such as watering, fertilizer, weather...I'd call your Cooperative Extension Service nearest University. You might be able to get a free or inexpensive visit by an Arborist or Master Gardener. Good excuse to learn about this wonderful service available to almost everyone.
Cutting horizontally on a woody perennial or tree, now that is life and death. The cambium is right below the bark in a thin, thin envelope around the tree. To cut that is to stop the xylem/phloem vascular system and girdle your tree, shrub. Vertical cracks the tree is usually able to shore up and protect itself. The Arborist can answer all your questions as well as provide even more information you may not have to increase the survivability of all your woody perennials/trees. They would be able to detect disease, help you mitigate any problems or advise you to remove a hazard.