All life on the Earth, whether in natural or managed habitats, exists within food webs that link the species in biological communities to at least one other species in that community. Yet food webs and other ecological networks are not widely used in applied ecology. Given the practical advances being made in food web construction (for example, high-quality replicated networks and ecoinformatics), the theoretical advances (for example models of extinction dynamics) and the past, present and future impact of mankind on the planet, the present is an excellent time to begin using ecological networks as an applied tool. Moreover, the healthy functioning of natural and managed habitats does provide free ecosystem services essential to mankind. Many ecosystem services are the result of interactions between species in a food web context, for example those between pollinators and crop plants or between parasitoids and pest herbivores.
For food webs to make it into the tool box of applied ecologists, more food webs of applied systems are needed. Food web ecologists should avoid the knee-jerk reaction to work on natural systems, ecological methods books should discuss food webs as a tool rather than a topic and finally there needs to be more of a discourse between applied ecologists and food web ecologists. This could well lead to a win–win situation: food web ecologists would win as they could have network perturbations to order (removal of alien species, application of specific pesticides and the reintroduction of species for example). Likewise, the applied ecologists would win as they would have answers to questions hitherto considered unanswerable, for example the impact of their habitat management at the community level.