Biodeterioration of stone: a review


Th. Warscheida & J. Braamsb
International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation 46 (2000) 343-368


The alteration and weathering of stone is basically determined by natural and anthropogenic impacts influencing various physical, chemical and biological damage factors at the object site. Whether as direct or catalytically enhancing factor, the biodeterioration of stone is coupled with nearly all environmentally induced degradation processes: the presence of the one makes deterioration by the other all the more effective. The bioreceptivity of stone is described by its structure and chemical composition, while the intensity of the microbial contamination is determined by the referring climatic conditions and the anthropogenic euthrophication of the atmosphere. The microflora improves the nutrient and moisture-restricted growth conditions on building stones by the formation of surface-covering biofilms. Besides the aesthetical impairment caused by the coloured biopatina, the biofouling effect promotes even “abiotic” deterioration processes due to the alteration of the material structure as well as their thermo-hygric properties; in addition, mechanical pressure due to the shrinking and swelling of the colloidal biofilms might cause a further weakening of the mineral lattice. Acidolytic and oxido-reductive biocorrosion processes complete the biodeteriorating attack of stone acting as a preliminary precursor for the latter formation of detrimental crusts. Suitable and reliable methods for the detection of biodeterioration processes are available, but only the interdisciplinary diagnosis and evaluation of the entire decay process of stone allows the formulation of adaequate countermeasure strategies. In case the significance of biodeterioration impacts is proven, the possible effects of the microbial contamination on cleaning procedures, protective treatments as well as biocidal applications has to be considered. This paper will give a comprehensive overview to the biodeterioration of stone and stresses the practical relevance for the conservation.