LIFE embraces understanding and predicting the Earth surface environment as the unifying theme of its activities, with a particular focus on vulnerability to change. The interconnected processes that shape Earth’s surface exhibit a wide range of complex dynamics, including thresholds and other forms of non-linear behavior. These complexities lead to steep gradients in vulnerability. Because sensitivity to change varies so much in space and time, mapping and quantifying vulnerability is critical to a sustainable future Earth. When vulnerability is high, small perturbations can lead to unexpectedly large changes – shifts in the system dynamics or transitions to alternate equilibrium states (Scheffer et al., 2009). Examples of these changes are many (e.g., abrupt river transitions, coupled landscape-ecosystem shifts, accelerated erosion, etc.), and scientific advances have not kept pace with identifying and mitigating our impact before these changes severely alter and/or degrade the surface environment.