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Stephanie Yelenik, Ph.D.
Ph.D. 2009 Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA
M.S. 2000 Botany, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
B.S. 1997 Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Specialty: Native plant restoration, causes and consequences of exotic plant invasion, plant-soil interactions
Research Interests: I am interested in the management of degraded ecosystems, the restoration of which requires a theoretical understanding of how plant composition and ecosystem processes interact. My research integrates ecosystem and plant community ecology theory with a strong field-based experimental approach to evaluate how plant communities are structured, effect and feedback with their physical environments. I tend to integrate my main research focus into restoration and conservation by proposing research in degraded ecosystems, and linking results with management concerns.
Personal Interests: Surfing, backpacking, and gardening
Science and Products
Mesic forests of Hawai‘i island provide an ideal system for the study of forest restoration because they have a similar history to other tropical and subtropical forests globally, while maintaining a relatively simple species assemblage. Many of these forests were cleared for grazing, and then later abandoned, to become dominated by pasture grasses that form competitive layers such that...
Because of the extreme climate gradients in Hawai‘i, relatively small shifts in atmospheric circulation could cause major changes in rainfall, cloud cover, and humidity. Although it has been shown that cloud water forms an important input at specific sites, we currently lack understanding of how these inputs vary across the landscape, or how interactions with plant communities alter direct...
Restoration of ecological systems in wildland areas often involves restoring species to habitats degraded by invasive plant and animal species. Often, such invasive species exert community level impacts, such as direct competition, but may also alter ecosystem function. For example, invasive plants have been documented to alter fire regimes, soil nutrients and microbes, food webs, and/or...
The Keamuku Maneuver Area (KMA) is a 9,227 ha. unit of Army Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) on Hawai‘i Island. The Army’s mission at KMA is threatened by erosional processes that could make parts of the training area too hazardous or too degraded for sustained use. These processes depend on vegetation dynamics and the nature of the soils underlying KMA. Our current knowledge of the training...
A massive outbreak of the native koa looper moth (Scotorythra paludicola; Geometridae) defoliated more than a third of the koa (Acacia koa) forest on Hawai‘i Island during 2013–2014. Our objective was to record the dynamics of the koa looper (Scotorythra paludicola) outbreak and evaluate the response to the outbreak by the forest ecosystem generally as well as select native and invasive...
Invasive rat control is an efficient, yet insufficient, method for recovery of the critically endangered Hawaiian plant hau kuahiwi (Hibiscadelphus giffardianus)
Biological invasions of rodents and other species have been especially problematic on tropical islands. Invasive Rattus rattus consumption of Hibiscadelphus giffardianus (Malvaceae; common Hawaiian name hau kuahiwi) fruit and seeds has been hypothesized to be the most-limiting factor inhibiting the critically endangered tree, but this has not been...Gill, Nathan S.; Yelenik, Stephanie G.; Banko, Paul C.; Dixon, Christopher B.; Jaenecke, Kelly; Peck, Robert
Long-term impacts of exotic grazer removal on native shrub recovery, Santa Cruz Island, California
A combination of overgrazing and exotic species introduction has led to the degradation of habitats worldwide. It is often unclear whether removal of exotic ungulates will lead to the natural reestablishment of native plant communities without further management inputs. I describe here my return to sites on Santa Cruz Island, California, 12 years...Yelenik, Stephanie G.
Rapid colonization of a Hawaiian restoration forest by a diverse avian community
Deforestation of tropical forests has led to widespread loss and extirpation of forest bird species around the world, including the Hawaiian Islands which have experienced a dramatic loss of forests over the last 200–800 years. Given the important role birds play in forest ecosystem functions via seed dispersal and pollination, a bird community's...Paxton, Eben H.; Yelenik, Stephanie G.; Borneman, Tracy E.; Rose, Eli; Camp, Richard J.; Kendall, Steve J.
Interactions among invasive plants: Lessons from Hawai‘i
Most ecosystems have multiple-plant invaders rather than single-plant invaders, yet ecological studies and management actions focus largely on single invader species. There is a need for general principles regarding invader interactions across varying environmental conditions, so that secondary invasions can be anticipated and managers can...D'Antonio, Carla M.; Ostertag, Rebecca; Cordell, Susan; Yelenik, Stephanie G.
Ecosystem vs. community recovery 25 years after grass invasions and fire in a subtropical woodland
Despite a large body of research documenting invasive plant impacts, few studies have followed individual invaded sites over decades to observe how they change, and none have contrasted how compositional impacts from invasion compare to ecosystem-process impacts over a multi-decadal time-scale. Using direct measurements of plant density and...D'Antonio, Carla M.; Yelenik, Stephanie G.; Mack, Michelle C.
The influence of soil resources and plant traits on invasion and restoration in a subtropical woodland
It has been shown in some cases that nitrogen (N) addition to soil will increase abundance of plant invaders because many invaders have traits that promote rapid growth in response to high resource supply. Similarly, it has been suggested, and sometimes shown, that decreasing soil N via carbon (C) additions can facilitate native species recovery....Yelenik, Stephanie G.; D'Antonio, Carla M.; August-Schmidt, Elizabeth
Methods for measuring bird-mediated seed rain: Insights from a Hawaiian mesic forest
Amount and diversity of bird-dispersed seed rain play important roles in determining forest composition, yet neither is easy to quantify. The complex ecological processes that influence seed movement make the best approach highly context specific. Although recent advances in seed rain theory emphasize quantifying source-specific seed shadows, many...Rose, Eli; Stewart, Meredith; Brinkman, Andrew; Paxton, Eben H.; Yelenik, Stephanie G.
Linking dominant Hawaiian tree species to understory development in recovering pastures via impacts on soils and litter
Large areas of tropical forest have been cleared and planted with exotic grass species for use as cattle pasture. These often remain persistent grasslands after grazer removal, which is problematic for restoring native forest communities. It is often hoped that remnant and/or planted trees can jump-start forest succession; however, there is little...Yelenik, Stephanie G.
Influence of restored koa in supporting bird communities
Deforestation of Hawaiian forests has adversely impacted native wildlife, including forest birds, bats and arthropods. Restoration activities have included reforestation with the native koa (Acacia koa), a dominant canopy tree species that is easy to propagate, has high survivorship, and has fast growth rates. We review recent research describing...Camp, Richard J.; Paxton, Eben H.; Yelenik, Stephanie G.
Evaluating nurse plants for restoring native woody species to degraded subtropical woodlands
Harsh habitats dominated by invasive species are difficult to restore. Invasive grasses in arid environments slow succession toward more desired composition, yet grass removal exacerbates high light and temperature, making the use of “nurse plants” an appealing strategy. In this study of degraded subtropical woodlands dominated by...Yelenik, Stephanie G.; DiManno, Nicole; D’Antonio, Carla M.
Dynamics and ecological consequences of the 2013−2014 koa moth outbreak at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge.
A massive outbreak of the koa moth (Geometridea: Scotorythra paludicola) defoliated more than a third of the koa (Acacia koa) forest on Hawai‘i Island during 2013−2014. This was the largest koa moth outbreak ever recorded and the first on the island since 1953. The outbreak spread to sites distributed widely around the island between...Banko, Paul C.; Peck, Robert W.; Yelenik, Stephanie G.; Paxton, Eben H.; Bonaccorso, Frank J.; Montoya-Aiona, Kristina; Foote, David
Regional constraints to biological nitrogen fixation in post-fire forest communities
Biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) is a key ecological process that can restore nitrogen (N) lost in wildfire and shape the pace and pattern of post-fire forest recovery. To date, there is limited information on how climate and soil fertility interact to influence different pathways of BNF in early forest succession. We studied asymbiotic (forest...Yelenik, Stephanie; Perakis, Steven S.; Hibbs, David
Forest birds on the island of Hawaii are responding positively to being restored in one of the largest, ongoing reforestation projects at Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, according to a new study released July 10 in the journal Restoration Ecology.