Conservation of predators—especially large carnivores and those that potentially pose threats to humans—can be controversial among stakeholders who must coexist with them. What is often overlooked, however, are the direct and indirect ecosystem services and disservices predators provide as a result of consumption of herbivores ("predation services"). We used a theoretical predator-prey-economic model to examine when predators are likely to provide a net service to society, by comparing services/disservices to a predator-free counterfactual scenario. We found that net predator services were strongly dependent on how per-capita services and disservices of predators and prey changed with abundance (i.e. assumed marginal value [MV] functions of service/disservice). We suggest that further empirical research is needed into MVs of services/disservices of wildlife, because transferring net services among locations—a common practice—is problematic unless MV functions are known. Rigorously quantifying services/disservices of predators could improve conservation and management outcomes by increasing effective communication to diverse stakeholders.
April 2, 2021