Inferring biotic interactions from proxies

Inferring biotic interactions from functional, phylogenetic and geographical proxies remains one great challenge in ecology. We propose a conceptual framework to infer the backbone of biotic interaction networks within regional species pools. First, interacting groups are identified to order links and remove forbidden interactions between species. Second, additional links are removed by examination of the geographical context in which species co-occur. Third, hypotheses are proposed to establish interaction probabilities between species. We illustrate the framework using published food-webs in terrestrial and marine systems. We conclude that preliminary descriptions of the web of life can be made by careful integration of data with theory.