Between 1992 and 2015, nearly 148 million hectares (Mha) within biodiversity hotspots – biologically rich but threatened terrestrial regions – worldwide underwent land‐cover changes, equating to 6% of the total areal extent of hotspots.

Forest losses in hotspots amounted to 54 Mha (–7% of the forest area present in 1992), driven primarily by agricultural expansion (38 Mha); shrubland or savanna also declined by 23 Mha (–8%). Over the same time, urban areas expanded by 10 Mha (+108%).

Global environmental change necessitates increased predictive capacity; for forests, recent advances in technology provide the response to this challenge. “Next-generation” remote-sensing instruments can measure forest biogeochemistry and structural change, and individual-based models can predict the fates of vast numbers of simulated trees, all growing and competing according to their ecological attributes in altered environments across large areas. Application of these models at continental scales is now feasible using current computing power.

Categorizing the choices in coastal infrastructure that are available to policy makers will allow for comparisons of their potential impacts on ecosystems and of their value in preparation for long-term sea-level rise. Although similar approaches have been described elsewhere in different policy contexts, this article focuses on evaluating physical infrastructure types – including hybrid structures that combine landforms with concrete and steel elements – based on historical differences in engineering practices.