Microbial Ecology

, Volume 60, Issue 1, pp 1–14 | Cite as

Feasibility of Removing Surface Deposits on Stone Using Biological and Chemical Remediation Methods

  • A. Polo
  • F. Cappitelli
  • L. Brusetti
  • P. Principi
  • F. Villa
  • L. Giacomucci
  • G. Ranalli
  • C. Sorlini
Environmental Microbiology


The study was conducted on alterations found on stone artwork and integrates microbial control and a biotechnological method for the removal of undesirable chemical substances. The Demetra and Cronos sculptures are two of 12 stone statues decorating the courtyard of the Buonconsiglio Castle in Trento (Italy). An initial inspection of the statues revealed putative black crusts and highlighted the microbial contamination causing discoloration. In 2006, the Cultural Heritage Superintendence of Trento commissioned us to study and remove these chemical and biological stains. Stereomicroscopy characterised the stone of the sculptures as oolitic limestone, and infrared analyses confirmed the presence of black crusts. To remove the black crusts, we applied a remediation treatment of sulphate-reducing bacteria, which removes the chemical alteration but preserves the original stone and the patina noble. Using traditional and biomolecular methods, we studied the putative microbial contamination and confirmed the presence of biodeteriogens and chose biocide Biotin N for the removal of the agents causing the discolouration. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis fluorescent in situ hybridisation established that Cyanobacteria and green algae genera were responsible for the green staining whereas the black microbial contamination was due to dematiaceous fungi. After the biocide Biotin N treatment, we applied molecular methods and demonstrated that the Cyanobacteria, and most of the green algae and dematiaceous fungi, had been efficiently removed. The reported case study reveals that conservators can benefit from an integrated biotechnological approach aimed at the biocleaning of chemical alterations and the abatement of biodeteriogens.


Calcium Oxalate Microbial Contamination Verticillium Black Crust Oolitic Limestone 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors are grateful for the financial support of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Architettonici, Trento, Italy, and give special thanks go to Arch. Luca de Bonetti for his help throughout this research. The authors also wish to thank Prof. L. Toniolo, Politecnico di Milano, for the chemical analyses.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Polo
    • 1
  • F. Cappitelli
    • 1
  • L. Brusetti
    • 2
  • P. Principi
    • 1
  • F. Villa
    • 1
  • L. Giacomucci
    • 1
  • G. Ranalli
    • 3
  • C. Sorlini
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Alimentari e MicrobiologicheUniversità degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly
  2. 2.Faculty of Science and TechnologyFree University of Bozen/BolzanoBolzanoItaly
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie per l’Ambiente e il TerritorioUniversity of MoliseIserniaItaly

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