The Earth has entered the Anthropocene, where multiple global change drivers caused by humanity are altering the biogeochemical nature of the planet in ways that will favor some species, but hinder many others. As species performances change in response to global change, the impacts on individual species will cascade to affect ecosystems, biomes and potentially, the biosphere, often with unpredicted results. Understanding the physiological responses of individual species to global change can form the foundation of an ability to mechanistically predict larger scale responses, and potentially, identify tipping points where non-linear response rapidly alter ecosystem properties. The discipline of plant physiological ecology is well positioned to formulate hypothesis that will identify mechanistic responses of individual species, and develop suitable experiments to test the hypotheses. For example, identifying thermal limits determining fundamental range limits provides mechanistic information that can be used to parameterize predictive models of species migration in a warming world. Identifying productivity responses to warming and atmospheric CO2 enrichment can identify when, and where, species may alter fundamental ecological controls on system properties that breach thresholds, for example, by filling in a fuel layer that then activates destructive fire cycles. I will provide specific examples from my research and the literature of how a mechanistic understanding can enhance our ability to manage global change. In particular, I will emphasize how plant physiology can be used to generate biological solutions to climate change, for example, by designing micro-refugia that will protect a wide range of species during extreme events.