Despite substantial conservation efforts, the loss of ecosystems continues globally, along with related declines in species and nature's contributions to people. An effective ecosystem goal, supported by clear milestones, targets and indicators, is urgently needed for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework and beyond to support biodiversity conservation, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and efforts to abate climate change. Here, we describe the scientific foundations for an ecosystem goal and milestones, founded on a theory of change, and review available indicators to measure progress. An ecosystem goal should include three core components: area, integrity and risk of collapse. Targets-the actions that are necessary for the goals to be met-should address the pathways to ecosystem loss and recovery, including safeguarding remnants of threatened ecosystems, restoring their area and integrity to reduce risk of collapse and retaining intact areas. Multiple indicators are needed to capture the different dimensions of ecosystem area, integrity and risk of collapse across all ecosystem types, and should be selected for their fitness for purpose and relevance to goal components. Science-based goals, supported by well-formulated action targets and fit-for-purpose indicators, will provide the best foundation for reversing biodiversity loss and sustaining human well-being.
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