Efforts to anticipate threats to biodiversity take the form of species richness predictions (SRPs) based on simple correlations with current climate and habitat area. We review the major approaches that have been used for SRP, species–area curves and climate envelopes, and suggest that alternative research efforts may provide more understanding and guidance for management. Extinction prediction suffers from a number of limitations related to data and the novelty of future environments. We suggest additional attention to (1) identification of variables related to biodiversity that are diagnostic and potentially more predictable than extinction, (2) constraints on species dispersal and reproduction that will determine population persistence and range shifts, including limited sources or potential immigrants for many regions, and (3) changes in biotic interactions and phenology. We suggest combinations of observational and experimental approaches within a framework available for ingesting heterogeneous data sources. Together, these recommendations amount to a shift in emphasis from prediction of extinction numbers to identification of vulnerabilities and leading indicators of change, as well as suggestions for surveillance tools needed to evaluate important variables and the experiments likely to provide most insight.