Ecosystems worldwide are losing some species and gaining others, resulting in an interchange of species that is having profound impacts on how these ecosystems function. However, research on the effects of species gains and losses has developed largely independently of one another. Recent conceptual advances regarding effects of species gain have arisen from studies that have unraveled the mechanistic basis of how invading species with novel traits alter biotic interactions and ecosystem processes. In contrast, studies on traits associated with species loss are fewer, and much remains unknown about how traits that predispose species to extinction affect ecological processes. Species gains and losses are both consequences and drivers of global change; thus, explicit integration of research on how both processes simultaneously affect ecosystem functioning is key to determining the response of the Earth system to current and future human activities.