* Current approaches to conservation may be inadequate to maintain ecosystem integrity because they are mostly based on rarity status of organisms rather than functional significance. Alternatively, approaches focusing on the protection of ecological networks lead to more appropriate conservation targets to maintain ecosystem integrity.
* We propose that a shift in focus from species to interaction networks is necessary to achieve pressing conservation management and restoration ecology goals of conserving biodiversity, ecosystem processes and ultimately landscape-scale delivery of ecosystem services.
* Using topical examples from the literature, we discuss historical and conceptual advances, current challenges and ways to move forward. We also propose a road map to ecological network conservation, providing a novel ready to use approach to identify clear conservation targets with flexible data requirements.
* Synthesis and applications. Integration of how environmental and spatial constraints affect the nature and strength of local interaction networks will improve our ability to predict their response to change and to conserve them. This will better protect species, ecosystem processes, and the resulting ecosystem services we depend on.