Review Article

The contribution of predators and scavengers to human well-being

  • Nature Ecology & Evolutionvolume 2pages229236 (2018)
  • doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0421-2
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Predators and scavengers are frequently persecuted for their negative effects on property, livestock and human life. Research has shown that these species play important regulatory roles in intact ecosystems including regulating herbivore and mesopredator populations that in turn affect floral, soil and hydrological systems. Yet predators and scavengers receive surprisingly little recognition for their benefits to humans in the landscapes they share. We review these benefits, highlighting the most recent studies that have documented their positive effects across a range of environments. Indeed, the benefits of predators and scavengers can be far reaching, affecting human health and well-being through disease mitigation, agricultural production and waste-disposal services. As many predators and scavengers are in a state of rapid decline, we argue that researchers must work in concert with the media, managers and policymakers to highlight benefits of these species and the need to ensure their long-term conservation. Furthermore, instead of assessing the costs of predators and scavengers only in economic terms, it is critical to recognize their beneficial contributions to human health and well-being. Given the ever-expanding human footprint, it is essential that we construct conservation solutions that allow a wide variety of species to persist in shared landscapes. Identifying, evaluating and communicating the benefits provided by species that are often considered problem animals is an important step for establishing tolerance in these shared spaces.

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C.J.O. would like to thank J. Wallace Coffey for his wisdom and mentorship leading to this manuscript. His legacy will not be forgotten. This work was funded partly by an Invasive Animal Cooperative Research Centre top-up scholarship and an Australian International Postgraduate Research Scholarship to C.J.O., by an ARC DECRA Fellowship to E.M.-M., and an ARC DECRA grant to H.L.B. N.H.C is grateful for support from the NSF Idaho EPSCoR Program (NSF award IIA-1301792).

Author information


  1. Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, 4072, Australia

    • Christopher J. O’Bryan
    • , Alexander R. Braczkowski
    • , James E. M. Watson
    •  & Eve McDonald-Madden
  2. Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, 4072, Australia

    • Hawthorne L. Beyer
  3. Human-Environment Systems Center, College of Innovation and Design, Boise State University, Boise, ID, 83725, USA

    • Neil H. Carter
  4. Global Conservation Program, Wildlife Conservation Society, 2300 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY, 10460, USA

    • James E. M. Watson
  5. Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, 4072, Australia

    • Eve McDonald-Madden


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C.J.O, J.E.M.W. and A.R.B. conceived the idea for the Review. C.J.O. wrote most of the manuscript and located case studies. H.L.B., E.M.-M. and N.H.C. assisted with conceptual framing and style. All authors contributed with editing and writing.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christopher J. O’Bryan.