Biocontamination and diversity of epilithic bacteria and fungi colonising outdoor stone and mortar sculptures

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Microbial communities colonising outdoor sculptures form intricate and dynamic ecosystems, which can accelerate the deterioration processes of the artworks and pose challenges to their conservation. In this study, the bacterial and fungal communities colonising the surfaces of five contemporary outdoor sculptures were characterised by high-throughput sequencing. The sculptures, made of marble, granite, Ançã limestone and mortar, are in urban parks and squares in the district of Porto, Portugal. The analysis of the microbial populations revealed great taxonomic diversity and species richness, including in well-preserved sculptures showing few visible traces of contamination. Proteobacteria, namely the genera Pseudomonas and Sphingomonas, were the core taxa common to all the sculptures, while Massilia and Aureobasidium were dominant only in granite. An abundance of pigment-producing microorganisms, such as Deinococcus, Methylobacterium, Rhodotorula and Sporobolomyces, was also found in granite. These are relevant taxonomic groups that can negatively impact stone and mortar artworks. The study was complemented with colourimetric analyses and bioluminescence assays to measure the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) content of samples collected from specific contaminated areas of the sculptures. The characterisation of the microbiomes of sculptures can provide further knowledge on the deterioration risks of this type of artwork in the region and help outline future targeted conservation strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3811-3828
Number of pages18
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2022


  • High-throughput sequencing
  • Biodeterioration
  • Sculpture
  • Stone
  • Mortar
  • Preventive conservation


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