Paleoecology (or ecological biogeography) describes the past distribution of species or communities and is an informative path used to understand the future in the face of climate change. Paleoecological changes in the Southwest over the past several thousand years happened in the presence of landscape manipulations by humans, a factor that adds relevance but increases difficulty of interpretation. What paleo-records are needed for (1) understanding past climate-driven changes (climate proxies), (2) resolving species sensitivity to and resilience against change (biogeographical data), and (3) understanding past ecosystem function and changes (environmental data)? What information is most urgently needed for ecosystem forecasts, and are there kinds of monitoring we need to start now so that we will have ground truth in the near future? These are major questions. Answering them for the arid and semiarid landscape of the Southwest in part relies on careful thought about the spatial and temporal scales of data needed.