US Forest Service Research & Development
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  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

Stephanie Yelenik

Rangeland Scientist
Great Basin Ecology Laboratory
United States

Phone: 805-451-5910
Contact Stephanie Yelenik

Current Research

My research combines ecosystem and plant community ecology to address problems relevant to ecosystem management and restoration. I am particularly interested in plant-soil and plant-animal interactions and how these alter the trajectory of degraded plant communities that are under diverse and changing anthropogenic threats. In my research, I seek to combine ecological theory with my passion for empirical, field experimentation to address problems that have application to real-world management problems in ecosystems that have been altered by human activities. I like to work directly with managers to develop research projects that address their management needs.

Research Interests

My work can be summarized under three broad, interrelated questions: (1) What impacts do plant species have on ecosystem functioning? (2) How do these impacts feed back to alter plant performance, species interactions and community change? and (3) How important are plant-ecosystem feedbacks relative to other processes controlling community structure and resiliency?  

Past Research

Past research includes:

  • The impacts of nitrogen-fixing invasive trees on soils, and implications for restoration, in the South African fynbos
  • Contrasting the roles of plant-soil feedbacks and exotic grass competition in Coastal Sage Scrub regeneration after grazer removal in California.
  • The contribution of nitrogen-fixing shrubs to nitrogen budgets and post-fire succession in the biogeographically unique forests of the Klamath/Siskiyou.
  • The long-term role of plant-soil interactions in alternate stable states in an ecosystem degraded by fire and invasive grasses in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
  • Restoration in the face of a new fungal pathogen that causes Rapid Ohia Death in Hawaii
  • The role of fogwater capture in forest regeneration and restoration in Hawaii
  • Thresholds of avian seed dispersal and exotic grass biomass in Hawaiian restoration forests
  • The role of disturbance in community assembly in invaded grasslands and native shrublands in Hawaii

Why This Research is Important

Feedbacks between plants and ecosystem properties (soil nutrients and microbes, fire, fogwater capture) can create resilience to change in both desired and degraded habitats. Understanding what holds a degraded ecosystem in place, or what can push it to a more desired state is key for developing cost effective tools for restoration.


  • University of California, Santa Barbara, Phd The role of plant-soil feedbacks in coastal sage scrub regeneration after grazer removal 2008
  • University of Cape Town, South Africa, Masters of Botany Impacts of invasive Acacia saligna on fynbos soils and implications for restoration 2000
  • University of California, Berkeley, Bachelors Science Integrative Biology 1997

Professional Experience

  • Research Ecologist, US Geological Survey
    2013 - 2020
    Ecological research of plant community dynamics in Hawaiʻi, including studies of invasive species impact and eradication, plant-soil interactions, and ecosystem restoration.
  • Post-Doctoral Research Associate, University of California, Santa Barbara
    2010 - 2013
    Post-fire woodland and grassland succession, the long-term role of plant-soil interactions in alternate stable states, and invasive grass-fire cycles in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
  • Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Oregon State University
    2008 - 2010
    Nitrogen fixation and post-fire forest stand development in the Klamath National Forest

Professional Organizations

  • Society for Ecological Restoration


Citations of non US Forest Service Publications

  • Yelenik, S.G., Roy, K., and Stallman, J. 2020. Successful restoration of Metrosideros polymorpha (ʻōhiʻa) is possible in forest sites with active Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death infections. Restoration Ecology, in press,

  • Von Holle, B., Yelenik, S.G., and Gornish, E. 2020. Restoration at the landscape scale as a means of mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Current Landscape Ecology Reports, in press.

  • Henn, J., Yelenik, S.G and Damschen, E. 2019. Traits of native and exotic species along an environmental gradient in Hawaiʻi. Oecologia, 191: 397-409.

  • Gill, N.S., Yelenik, S.G., Banko, P., Dixon, C.B., Jaenecke, K. and Peck, R. 2018. Invasive rat control is an efficient, yet insufficient, method for recovery of the critically endangered Hawaiian plant hau kuahiwi (Hibiscadelphus giffardianus). PloS one 13.11 (2018): e0208106.

  • Yelenik, S.G. 2018. Long-term impacts of exotic grazer removal on native shrub recovery, Santa Cruz Island, California. Western North American Naturalist, 78:777–786.

  • D’Antonio, C.M., Ostertag, B., Cordell, S. and Yelenik, S.G. 2017. Interactions among invasive plants: Lessons from Hawaii. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 48: 521-541.

  • D’Antonio, C.M., Yelenik, S.G., and Mack, M.C. 2017. Ecosystem but not community resilience 25 years after grass invasions and fire in a subtropical woodland. Journal of Ecology, 105: 1462–1474.

  • Yelenik, S.G., D’Antonio, C.M and August-Schmidt, L. 2017. The role of soil resources and plant traits in invasion and restoration in Hawaiian woodlands. Plant Ecology, 218: 1149-1161

  • Paxton, E., Yelenik, S.G., Borneman, T., Rose, E.T., Camp, R., Kendall , S. 2017. Rapid colonization of a Hawaiian restoration forest by a diverse avian community. Restoration Ecology, 26: 165-173.

  • Rose, E.T., Stewart, M., Brinkman, A., Paxton, E., and Yelenik, S.G. 2017. Methods for measuring bird-mediated seed rain, insights from a Hawaiian mesic forest. Pacific Science, 71:287-302.

  • Yelenik, S.G. 2017. Linking dominant Hawaiian tree species to understory development in recovering pastures via impacts on soils and litter. Restoration Ecology, 25:42-52.

  • Yelenik, S.G., DiManno, N., and D’Antonio, C.M. 2015. Evaluating nurse plants for restoring native woody species to degraded subtropical woodlands. Ecology and Evolution, doi: 10.1002/ece3.1294

  • Yelenik, S.G., Colman, B., Hille Ris Lambers, J., and Levine, J.M. 2014. A mechanistic study of plant and microbial controls over R* for nitrogen in an annual grassland. PLoS ONE 9: e106059. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106059.

  • Yelenik, S.G. and D’Antonio, C.M. 2013. Self-reinforcing impacts of plant invasions change over time. Nature, 502: 517-520.

  • Yelenik, S.G., Perakis, S.S., and Hibbs, D. 2013. Regional constraints to N-fixation in post-fire forest communities. Ecology, 94: 739-750.

  • Yelenik, S.G. and Levine, J.M. 2011.The role of plant-soil feedbacks in driving native species recovery. Ecology, 92: 66-74.

  • Yelenik, S.G. and Levine, J.M. 2010. Processes limiting native shrub recovery in exotic grasslands after non-native herbivore removal. Restoration Ecology, 18: 418- 425.

  • Hille Ris Lambers, J., Yelenik, S.G., Colman, B., and Levine, J.M. 2010. California annual grass invaders: the passengers, not drivers of change. Journal of Ecology, 98: 1147-1156.

  • Yelenik, S.G. and Levine, J.M. 2010. Re-establishment of native shrubs into California exotic annual grasslands: are ecosystem services returned? Ecological Applications, 20: 716-727.

  • Levine, J.M., Adler, P.B., and Yelenik, S.G. 2004. A meta-analysis of biotic resistance to exotic plant invasions. Ecology Letters, 7: 975-989.

  • Yelenik, S.G., Stock, W.D., and Richardson, D.M. 2004.Ecosystem-level impacts of invasive Acacia saligna in the South African fynbos. Restoration Ecology, 12: 44-51.

Last updated on : 10/01/2021