This Special Issue of Ecology Letters presents contributions from an international meeting organised by Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and Ecology Letters on the broad theme of ecological effects of global environmental change. The objectives of these articles are to synthesise, hypothesise and illustrate the ecological effects of environmental change drivers and their interactions, including habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, invasive species and climate change. A range of disciplines is represented, including stoichiometry, cell biology, genetics, evolution and biodiversity conservation. The authors emphasise the need to account for several key ecological factors and different spatial and temporal scales in global change research. They also stress the importance of ecosystem complexity through approaches such as functional group and network analyses, and of mechanisms and predictive models with respect to environmental responses to global change across an ecological continuum: population, communities and ecosystems. Lastly, these articles provide important insights and recommendations for environmental conservation and management, as well as highlighting future research priorities.