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Preserving cultural heritage through wood and soil analyses

A recent study on wood and soil types on European level will allow formulation of effective preventive and curing measures against environmental damage coming from bacterial degradation of wood.

Climate Change and Environment

On the basis of soil type, groundwater level and age, 27 sites have been selected and sampled proving the existence of wood degrading bacteria under a different environmental conditions. The results from the sampled sites showed that there is no reason to ignore the impact of bacterial wood degradation for piling constructions and archaeological remains. However, sample comparisons displayed that the velocity of degradation process is both species and environment dependent. Concerning the foundation sites no indications of relation between the degree of decay and the surrounding environment were found. Despite that, nitrogen and phosphorus content as well as their transport in the wood may be related with the degree of degradation. Oxygen doesn't seem to initiate and support the bacterial wood degradation process, yet an increased concentration could accelerate the process, especially the presence of secondary fungi. Additionally, specific events such as temporary lower groundwater and heavy rain may cause a water flux in the wood which is believed to support bacterial wood degradation. The great diversity found among archaeological sites is the main reason for which researchers could not gain a clearer understanding of the factors affecting the degradation process. Similarly to foundation sites, increased oxygen concentrations favour the development of fungal activity that can destroy wooden structures in relatively short periods of time. The presence of water flux can also play an important role in the degradation process. Moreover, the degree of degradation is age independent, yet wood degrading bacteria were still active in most of the samples ranging from 300 - 2,000 years. This is mainly due to the relevant storage conditions that regulate the velocity of bacterial wood degradation, not the infection. The data gathered are expected to improve knowledge on the effects of bacterial degradation on wood and provide a scale to classify different stages of progressive deterioration of wood. Thereby, they can contribute in the development of suitable methods for predicting, diagnosing and monitoring related bacterial-originated damage for preserving historic buildings with wooden foundation poles and archaeological sites.

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