A preliminary study of the phycological degradation of natural stone masonry

Ryan G. Welton, Simon J. Cuthbert, Roger McLean, Andrew Hursthouse, John Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


For many years it has been realised that the weathering of stone is not merely determined by physical and chemical factors but also by biological agents. When the stone in question is a historic building or monument, the damage done constitutes an irretrievable loss of our heritage and history. Laboratory studies have commenced in Paisley to study the effect of photoautotrophs on the major sedimentary rock forming minerals, with a view to expanding this work to study the overall effect of these micro-organisms on heritage masonry. Tests were carried out on Albite, Calcite, Dolomite, Orthoclase, Siderite and Quartz, using axenic cultures of the following: Chlorella vulgaris, Chlorococcum tetrasporum, Scenedesmus obliquus, Oocystis marsonii, Stichococcus bacillaris. The rock chips were immersed in either water or bolds basal media and exposed to a mix of the micro-organisms listed above and then tested weekly for their pH, fortnightly for the waters chemical composition using inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES) and visually utilising the university’s SEM facilities. Work so far has revealed biologically mediated etching of minerals, a well-defined pH profile over a period of 90 days, as well as a variety of elemental release patterns for the different minerals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-145
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Geochemistry and Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Algae
  • biodegradation
  • chemical effects
  • natural stone masonry


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