The sustainability of agricultural, forested, freshwater and other managed and natural ecosystems is critical for the future of mankind. However, the services provided by these ecosystems are under threat due to climate change, loss of biodiversity, and land use changes. In order to meet the challenges of preserving or improving ecosystems services, securing food supply and building a 21st century bioeconomy, we need to understand and forecast how ecosystems will respond to current and future changes including new management approaches and potential environmental tipping points. Without sufficient understanding of the sensitive interdependencies between ecosystems and the environment, Europe will be unable to assess the impacts, control the risks, or potentially utilize the benefits of anticipated large changes in ecosystems structure and function. Key benefits will include greenhouse gas mitigation and climate adaptation.