We are already experiencing the rapid pace of environmental change in the Anthropocene, necessitating the development of new tools and techniques for measuring changes in ecosystem dynamics. Sentinel species, from birds to invertebrates, have been used to provide insights into ecosystem function, as leading indicators of risk to human health and as harbingers of future change, with implications for ecosystem structure and function. Here, we offer an update to previous research identifying marine top predators as indicators of ecosystem change and examine terrestrial sentinels and the latest research on sentinels of pollution and human health. Using ecosystem sentinels enables rapid response and adaptation to ecosystem variability and environmental change in part because they may be easier to observe and in part because they may serve as leading indicators of ecosystem change. While there may not be a given taxon that is best suited as sentinels, we highlight how to select the most effective sentinels, including examples of when sentinel species have been incorporated into management. Choosing a suite of appropriate sentinels will both give insight into ecosystem processes and can help manage changing ecosystems into the future.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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