Assembly rules provide one possible unifying framework for community ecology. Given a species pool, and measured traits for each species, the objective is to specify which traits (and therefore which subset of species) will occur in a particular environment. Because the problem primarily involves traits and environments, answers should be generalizable to systems with very different taxonomic composition. In this context, the environment functions like a filter (or sieve) removing all species lacking specified combinations of traits. In this way, assembly rules are a community level analogue of natural selection. Response rules follow a similar process except that they transform a vector of species abundances to a new vector using the same information. Examples already exist from a range of habitats, scales, and kinds of organisms. © IAVS; Opulus Press Uppsala. Printed in Sweden.