Climate change poses significant emerging risks to biodiversity, ecosystem function and associated socioecological systems. Adaptation responses must be initiated in parallel with mitigation efforts, but resources are limited. As climate risks are not distributed equally across taxa, ecosystems and processes, strategic prioritization of research that addresses stakeholder-relevant knowledge gaps will accelerate effective uptake into adaptation policy and management action. After a decade of climate change adaptation research within the Australian National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, we synthesize the National Adaptation Research Plans for marine, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems. We identify the key, globally relevant priorities for ongoing research relevant to informing adaptation policy and environmental management aimed at maximizing the resilience of natural ecosystems to climate change. Informed by both global literature and an extensive stakeholder consultation across all ecosystems, sectors and regions in Australia, involving thousands of participants, we suggest 18 priority research topics based on their significance, urgency, technical and economic feasibility, existing knowledge gaps and potential for cobenefits across multiple sectors. These research priorities provide a unified guide for policymakers, funding organizations and researchers to strategically direct resources, maximize stakeholder uptake of resulting knowledge and minimize the impacts of climate change on natural ecosystems. Given the pace of climate change, it is imperative that we inform and accelerate adaptation progress in all regions around the world.