Land suitability analysis / transformation of organic waste to valuable products for soil

  • land suitability analysis for plant cultivation

  • biochar production & characterization









The United Arab Emirates is positioning itself in the world as a leader of sustainable initiatives and a driver of green technologies. A principle world initiative involving sustainability is food security which is dependent on having good quality soils and efficient use of the water resource. Soils in Abu Dhabi are characterized as low quality because they have low carbon content, low water holding capacity, and poor fertility due to high alkalinity. These factors, along with the hyper arid climate limit the capacity for crop/food production in Abu Dhabi. The overarching goal of this project is to improve soil quality in the UAE as a mechanism for enhancing agricultural productivity, reducing soil erosion, and improving water use efficiency and conservation.  My lab efforts are currently directed at (1) producing and characterizing biochar from organic waste for soil application and (2) developing compounded formulations for soil improvement using waste produced as residuals from biorefineries (industrial process for conversion of biomass to fuels and value added chemicals).  Furthermore, because these soil application formulations are being produced from organic/biological material that is often rich in elements such as Phosphorus- there is potential for mineral recovery at low economic cost.  


Almarzooqi F. and Yousef, L.F. (2017) Biological response of a sandy soil treated with biochar derived from a halophyte (Salicornia bigelovii). Applied Soil Ecology 114; 9-15 link


Opatokuna, S.A., Yousef, L.F., Strezova, V. (2017). Agronomic Assessment of pyrolysed food waste digestate for sandy soil management. Journal of Environmental Management 187; 24-30  link

Khalifa, N. and Yousef, L.F. (2015). A short report on changes of quality indicators for a sandy textured soil after treatment with biochar produced from fronds of date palm. Energy Procedia 74; 960-965  link

Jouaid, M., Al-Nofeli, N., Khalifa, N., Benyettou, F., Yousef, L.F. (2015). Characteristics of slow pyrolysis biochars produced from rhodes grass and fronds of edible date palm. Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis 111; 183-190 link 

Al Yamani W., Kennedy S., Sgouridis S., and Yousef , L.F. (2013). A Land Suitability Study for the Sustainable Cultivation of the Halophyte Salicornia bigelovii: The Case of Abu Dhabi, UAE. Arid Land Research and Management 27; 349-360 link


conference presentations

Alnofeli, N., Joueid, M., Yousef, L.F. (2013). Physical and chemical analysis of biochar generated from palm tree waste. SSSA Division: Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 266-2 link


Khalifa, N., Yousef, L.F. (2013). Carbon turnover in soil amended with biochar generated from palm tree fronds. SSSA Division: Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 266-3 link

Current students involved: 

Mona AlMarzooqi, MSc student


Alumni students involved: 

Fatima A. AlMarzooqi, MSc 2016

Naeema Al Nofeli, MSc 2014

Nahid Khalifa, MSc 2014

Wafa Al Yamani, MSc 2012

Isolation of soilborne fungi and protein characterization

  • cellulose degrading activity from mangrove sediments of the Arabian Gulf

  • beta-glucosidase activity of fungal isolates

 There is an industrial need for biomass degrading enzymes which are active under a wider range of physiologic conditions (pH, salt concentration, temperature) for biofuel production.  Many natural ecosystems efficiently degrade cellulosic biomass and harbor enzymes that, when identified, could be used to increase the efficiency of commercial biomass deconstruction.  High activity and abundance of microbial and fungal populations are typically associated with plant roots because of local carbon inputs (falling litter), root exudates and root decay.  Because of this, we suspect mangrove root sediments in Abu Dhabi to contain microbes and fungi with biomass degrading enzymes.  The mangrove sediments in Abu are characterized by high temperatures and salinities which resulted in the entire forest to be composed of a single monoculture of grey mangrove (Avicennia marina).  This phenomenon leads us to suspect that the fungal and microbial populations might exhibit unique qualities and enzymes that enable them to tolerate the harsh conditions of the mangrove sediments.  My lab efforts are currently focused on using enrichment and baiting techniques to isolate and characterize salt tolerant fungi and their enzymes from mangrove sediments.   The overarching goal of this research is to identify enzymes that are novel and more efficient than what is currently available in the market.  


Alsheikh-Hussain A., Al Tenaiji, E., Yousef, L.F. (2014). Fungal cellulases from mangrove forests – a short review. Journal of Biochemical Technology  5(3):765-774  link

conference presentations

Alnuaimi, S., Yousef L.F. (2016). Growth and Cellulolytic activity of native fungus isolated from mangrove sediments in Abu Dhabi, 4th Biotechnology world congress link  

Alsheikh, A., Yousef, L.F. (2013). Characterization and enrichment of microbial cellulose degrader populations in mangrove sediments of the Arabian Gulf. SSSA Division: Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 393-4 link

Lopez, C., Yousef, L.F. (2013). Isolation of halotolerant fungi from mangrove sediments in Arabian Gulf. SSSA Division: Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 129-17 link 

Alumni members involved:

Shahad Alnuaimi, MSc 2016

Areej Al-Sheikh, Research engineer (2012-2014)

Celia Lopez, MSc 2014


Microbiology Research Lab

Microbiology Research Lab