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Biodeterioration of marble in an underwater environment

AuthorsCámara Gallego, Beatriz ; Álvarez de Buergo, Mónica ; Bethencourt, M.; Fernández-Montblanc, Tomás; La Russa, Mauro Francesco; Ricca, M.; Fort González, Rafael
Submerged archeology
Issue Date31-Dec-2017
CitationScience of the Total Environment 609: 109-122 (2017)
AbstractThis study examines the deterioration of geomaterials used throughout history that today may be found lying on the ocean floor. Submerged archaeological sites including cargoes from shipwrecks or ancient city ruins have been a topic of interest from a perspective of in situ musealization, as a way of making underwater cultural heritage accessible to the public. In an experimental study conducted at an underwater archaeological site in the Bay of Cádiz (SW Spain), we subjected two types of marble (Carrara and Macael) to three conditions to which submerged archaeological objects are often exposed: full exposure to the water column, natural processes of burial and unearthing, or permanent burial. After an 18-month study period, the factor found to mostly affect these materials was their biological colonization. This factor was assessed by estimating total surface biocover and the rate of surface biocolonization, and also through the identification of skeletons and associated alteration forms by light microscopy, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Biofouling and bioerosion were the main causes of biodeterioration and dependent on the position of the marble specimens in the seawater. The response of both materials was similar, though dolomite crystals in the Carrara marble acted as a protective barrier against actively penetrating microorganisms. These investigations have allowed the study of tracers left by epilithic encrusting organisms and endolithic bioeroders on marbles intentionally exposed to seawater, providing new insights to the understanding of the biodeterioration processes occurring in cultural heritage stones, with significant implications when they are part of underwater archaeological remains.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.07.103
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