Conservation of species and ecosystems is increasingly difficult because anthropogenic impacts are pervasive and accelerating. Under this rapid global change, maximizing conservation success requires a paradigm shift from maintaining ecosystems in idealized past states toward facilitating their adaptive and functional capacities, even as species ebb and flow individually. Developing effective strategies under this new paradigm will require deeper understanding of the long-term dynamics that govern ecosystem persistence and reconciliation of conflicts among approaches to conserving historical versus novel ecosystems. Integrating emerging information from conservation biology, paleobiology, and the Earth sciences is an important step forward on the path to success. Maintaining nature in all its aspects will also entail immediately addressing the overarching threats of growing human population, overconsumption, pollution, and climate change.