Ahmed Abdel-Azeem

2011 EOL Rubenstein FellowsAhmed Abdel-Azeem

Dr. Abdel-Azeem

The Fungi of North Africa and the Middle East

Faculty of Science, the University of Suez Canal, Egypt

2011 EOL Fellow

I am currently working as a mycologist with particular interest in the ecology, taxonomy, biology, and conservation of fungi, and my specialist interest is members of the phylum Ascomycota. These ascomycetes constitute about 65% of all described fungi and are found in a very wide range of freshwater, marine, and terrestrial habitats. They encompass a biologically diverse range, including saprobes (for example cellulose decomposers, and chitinolytic, keratinolytic, or coprophilous species), and facultative and obligate plant parasites involved in economically important diseases such as powdery-mildew, wood-canker, ergot, rot, blight, scab, leaf curl, and leaf-spots. Other members of the phylum live in various types of association with insects or algae (lichens) or as mycorrhizas on roots of plants. My research includes isolation, identification, and taxonomic assessments of these fungi with particular emphasis on those which produce bioactive materials.

I graduated from the Botany Department, Faculty of Science, University of Suez Canal in 1987 with an honors degree graded as excellent. In 1997, I obtained my master’s degree with a dissertation on cytogenetical and biological studies of Chaetomiopsis dinae, and my PhD thesis, awarded in 2003, focused on the ecology, distribution, and substratum preferences of the Ascomycota in Egypt. In 2010, I published a full review of the history of mycology in Egypt, together with a checklist of 2281 species of fungi for the country, and an assessment of future perspectives for mycology in Egypt. Until that review, information about fungi from Egypt had been fragmentary and highly dispersed in many often obscure and difficult to obtain publications. The checklist greatly increased the number of fungi recorded from the country and, significantly, is the first fully documented checklist of fungi for any country in the Arabic speaking world.

Most recently I have become interested in the effect of climate change on fungi, especially the impacts of ultraviolet light on leaf and soil fungi. This in turn has led me to become involved in fungal conservation. I am a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Specialist Group for Cup Fungi, Truffles & their Allies, and am also a Founder Member of the International Society for Fungal Conservation, the first society anywhere in the world to be exclusively devoted to protecting fungi.

For my postdoctoral research, I hope to use my experience in taxonomy, ecology, biology, and conservation of fungi to document the Egyptian Ascomycota by establishing a minimum of 400 EOL-compatible web pages, each relating to a different non-lichen forming ascomycete species known to occur in Egypt. As part of that work, IUCN-compatible evaluations will be made of the conservation status of each species, with the concurrent development within the Cybertruffle website (www.cybertruffle.org.uk) of a mycological bibliography relating to fungi of the Middle East and North Africa. By the end of this project I propose to link the Cybertruffle mycological databases with EOL.

Immature uniseriate ascus of Ascobolus cervinus Berk. & Broome reported by Abdel-Azeem (2003) on herbivore dung as a new Egyptian record. Copyright Abdel-Azeem, 2003.

Broadly clavate ascus of Ascobolus immersus Pers. before dehiscence showing ascospores imbedded in gelatinous matrix, copyright Abdel-Azeem, 2003.