Biological systems have similarities to efficient financial portfolios; the emergent properties of aggregate systems are often less volatile than their components. These portfolio effects derive from statistical averaging across the dynamics of system components, which often correlate weakly or negatively with each other through time and space. The “portfolio” concept when applied to ecological research provides important insights into how ecosystems are organized, how species interact, and how evolutionary strategies develop. It also helps identify appropriate scales for developing robust management and conservation schemes, and offers an approach that does not rely on prescriptive predictions about threats in an uncertain future. Rather, it presents a framework for managing risk from inevitable perturbations, many of which we will not be able to understand or anticipate.