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Algae and their biodegradation effects on building materials in the Ostrava industrial agglomeration


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Microorganisms cause changes in the building stone, which reduce its usable life and reliability. Microalgae make important parts of the biodegradation consortia of microorganisms on the surface of building materials. Via their metabolites, microalgae affect the stability of mineral components and thus lead to the material destruction. The aim of the paper was to identify aerophytic microalgae on the surface of engineering structures in the Ostrava agglomeration, and to describe the basic interactions between such microorganisms and the building materials, which may lead to the destruction of the materials.
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IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science
Algae and their biodegradation effects on building materials in the
Ostrava industrial agglomeration
To cite this article: H Vojtková 2017 IOP Conf. Ser.: Earth Environ. Sci. 92 012073
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1st International Conference on Advances in Environmental Engineering (AEE 2017) IOP Publishing
IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 92 (2017) 012073 doi :10.1088/1755-1315/92/1/012073
Algae and their biodegradation effects on building materials
in the Ostrava industrial agglomeration
H Vojtková1
1VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava, Institute of Environmental Engineering,
Czech Republic
Abstract. Microorganisms cause changes in the building stone, which reduce its usable life
and reliability. Microalgae make important parts of the biodegradation consortia of
microorganisms on the surface of building materials. Via their metabolites, microalgae affect
the stability of mineral components and thus lead to the material destruction. The aim of the
paper was to identify aerophytic microalgae on the surface of engineering structures in the
Ostrava agglomeration, and to describe the basic interactions between such microorganisms
and the building materials, which may lead to the destruction of the materials.
1. Introduction
The investigations of microflora abundant on the building materials show that microbial communities
of bacteria, algae, blue-green algae and microscopic fungi develop on the surfaces of structures, which
may form more complex consortia (biofilms) and form symbionts of higher orders (lichens). The
colonisation of structures by such organisms is in opposition with the human efforts to maintain
structures free of damage, either from the constructional or aesthetic point of view. It has been
established that the action of microorganisms with the building materials leads to biodeterioration
changes that reduce their lifespan and reliability [1,2].
Microalgae represent polyphyletic microorganisms that have adapted to wide spectra of the
environments, in which in dependence on various conditions these alter their morphology and
physiological strategy of survival. Despite the fact algae are primarily aquatic organisms, they have
managed to well adapt to terrestrial conditions, and nowadays are considered to be cosmopolitan
organisms as they colonise all types of environments [3]. The dominant percentage of aerophytic
species of microalgae belongs among Chlorophyta; the algae have adapted to grow in aerobic
conditions on the morphological as well as physiological levels [4]. Aerophytic algae are able to grow
in different environments, for example in sites with extreme pH values or temperatures algae have
been documented for their capacities to tolerate temperature changes in the range from 0 to 85 °C [5],
[6]. Urban agglomerations with built-up areas may be, to a certain extent, considered extreme
environments where algae find habitats with extreme temperature conditions resulting from large
artificial structures, especially in the summer. However, the pH value is also important for the
occurrence of algae on manmade structures. In dependence on the species, its optimal value may range
from 3.5 to 9 [7]. In general, algae find pH over 12 difficult to tolerate. In case of accelerated
carbonation of the building materials due to surplus of CO2 in the atmosphere, the pH value falls
below 9, and the onset of algae on the structure surface is very probable. As a result, green algae may
1st International Conference on Advances in Environmental Engineering (AEE 2017) IOP Publishing
IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 92 (2017) 012073 doi :10.1088/1755-1315/92/1/012073
be found particularly on older, wet facades with pH around 7, while cyanobacteria grow better on
alkaline surfaces.
The major danger for the building materials caused by the abundance of algae lies in their
photosynthetic production of carbon dioxide that chemically affects the components of the building
material. At increased amounts of aggressive carbon dioxide in the environment due to the industrial
emissions, CO2 reacts with calcium hydroxide from cement sealant under the formation of CaCO3 and
water; the action of water causes the dissolution of CaCO3 and in the reaction with other molecules,
CO2 forms hydrogencarbonate complexes [8]. It has been established that microalgae also produce
organic acids that disturb the building substrate and thus enable the development of other
microorganisms responsible for biodegradation bacteria and fungi. These are often sources of
changes in the aesthetic and mechanical properties of building materials. Algae as organisms that
combine water cause physical corrosion of such materials via penetrating into the porous systems of
building materials and contribute to the formation of micro-fissures. Under higher moistures,
microalgae increase their volumes and erode the surrounding material by swelling pressure. Along
with the impurities from the atmosphere in towns (soot, dust particles, microorganisms, etc.) they form
a mucous bio-layer of the material surface that further supports the retention of water. In addition,
algae may also participate in the formation of a crust as they produce the so-called extracellular
polymer substances (EPS), which have been identified on the surfaces of a range of urban structures
[9,10]. These substances significantly affect the physicochemical properties of materials, e.g. building
stone, and support the bacterial growth and activity leading to the release of inorganic substances
useful for organisms in the same environment.
2. Methods and experimental
The samples were repeatedly drawn using sterile Pasteur pipettes (Fisher Scientific Inc., USA) from
the surfaces of building materials of residential buildings within the City of Ostrava. The basic
identification and determination were made using an Olympus CX41 light microscope and expert
literature [11].
Table 1. Microalgae isolated of materials from building surfaces
Phylum Chlorophytae
* species name is currently accepted taxonomically [14]
Apatococcus lobatus (Chodat) Petersen
Chlorella vulgaris Beyerinck [Beijerinck]
Chlorococcum infusionum (Schrank) Meneghini
Cosmarium undulatum Corda ex Ralfs
Desmococcus vulgaris Brand
Klebsormidium flaccidum (Kützing) Silva, Mattox & Blackwell
Monoraphidium griffithii (Berkeley) Komárková-Legnerová
Pleurococcus vulgaris Meneghini
Protococcus nivalis (Bauer) Agardh
Scenedesmus quadricauda (Turpin) Brébisson
Scotiellopsis terrestris (Reisigl) Puncochárová & Kalina
Stichococcus bacillaris Nägeli
Trebouxia decolorans Ahmadjian
Trentepohlia umbrina (Kützing) Bornet
Ulothrix tenuissima Kützing
The samples come from the surface of the facades (plaster) of the panel buildings in the city districts
of Ostrava (Ostrava-Poruba, Ostrava-Zábřeh, Moravská Ostrava.) The monitored buildings underwent
revitalization in 2010-2012; within the framework of their modernization, the defects of the sealing
1st International Conference on Advances in Environmental Engineering (AEE 2017) IOP Publishing
IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 92 (2017) 012073 doi :10.1088/1755-1315/92/1/012073
between the panels were removed, the damage of the panel parts and the thermal insulation of the
perimeter skin was remedied. Although the external thermal insulating system (ETICS) with the use of
facade polystyrene, mineral fiber boards and plasters on based of silicates and acrylate, at present,
there is already an apparent growth of cyanobacteria and algae on the plaster of these buildings.
Algae microorganisms were identified using genomic DNA based on the DNA of a target DNA region
of 18S rRNA gene [12] using eukaryotic standard primers 20F (5’-GTAGTCATATGCTTGTCTC-3’)
and 18L (5’-CACCTACGGAAACCTTGTTACGACTT-3’); according to the methodology published
in Hamby et al. [13].
3. Results and Discussion
In the four samples of materials from building surfaces, there were identified 27 taxa, namely 8 taxa of
Cyanobacteria, 15 taxa of Chlorophyta, and 4 taxa of Chrysophyta. The green algae Chlorella
vulgaris, Chlorococcum infusionum and Trentepohlia umbrina were identified in all sampling sites
(table 1).
The genus Chlorella was the most widespread, occurring on all buildings reported, represented by
two subspecies and occurring on four different substrata.
The members of Chlorococcum genus were identified in all examined building substrata, including
the newly insulated concrete-panel houses. Other abundant algae were the representatives of
Stichococcus genus, and thus it may be assumed that Chlorella, Chlorococcum and Stichococcus are
green algae that colonise the buildings in the Ostrava Region the most. This is in agreement with
Ortega-Calvo et al. (1995), who state that the occurrences of Chlorella, Chlorococcus,
Klebsormidium, Pleurococcus and Trentepohlia (figure 1) may be observed in the monuments in
Europe, America and Asia, but due to their cosmopolitan distribution it is not possible to correlate the
genera and specific substrata or climates [15,16].
Figure 1. The progressive biodeterioration processes on the surface of building materials: algae
constitute the medium for the growth of fungi that pass through the building material by means of their
hyphae. The hyphae of microscopic fungi on the base comprising of Trentepohlia sp. algae (figure on
the left); the figure on the right shows the hyphae penetrating the eroded building material (SEM
coloured microphotography, photo by author).
Microalgae of the genera Chlorella and Trentepholia are also represented among the Chlorophyte
genera that colonise stone substrata in the Mediterranean Basin. The occurrence of Trebouxia and
Trentepohlia indicates that these microalgae may be involved in the lichenisation leading to
colonisation by lichens [17]. In fact, the genus Trebouxia occurs in approximately 20% of all lichens
and has rarely been found free-living. Regarding the endolithic growth of green algae, Trentepohlia,
Chorella and Klebsormidium, they were found growing in monuments of Portugal [18].
1st International Conference on Advances in Environmental Engineering (AEE 2017) IOP Publishing
IOP Conf. Series: Earth and Environmental Science 92 (2017) 012073 doi :10.1088/1755-1315/92/1/012073
Cryptoendolithic growth of Stichococcus bacillaris was also observed in granite of the Cathedral of
Toledo, Spain [19].
4. Conclusion
Microalgae make significant parts of the biodegradation microbial consortia on the surfaces of
building materials, which influence the stability of mineral components via their metabolites, and thus
reduce their lifespan and reliability. Among the major determinants of the type and extent of microbial
colonisation there are the mineral composition of the building substrata and their physicochemical
properties. Nevertheless, the surrounding atmosphere contains high amounts of pollutants of different
origins (especially air pollutants related to the industry and transport), which largely influence the
course of the biodegradation process. The investigations of the microflora on the surface of building
materials have shown that even in the conditions of industrial agglomeration communities of
aerophytic microorganisms thrive, particularly bacteria, algae, blue-green algae and microscopic fungi
that form biofilms and crusts on the surfaces.
In the environment of the Ostrava industrial agglomeration, there were identified microalgae on the
building material surfaces, among which the species Chlorella vulgaris, Chlorococcum infusionum,
Stichococcus bacillaris, Pleurococcus vulgaris and Trentepohlia umbrina may be considered to be
ubiquitous colonisators of building materials. The industrial environment of Ostrava City, with its
increased level of pollutants, is not a factor that determines algal growth on the structure surfaces. On
the contrary, it may be a factor inhibiting their diversity, which needs to be confirmed by further
expert studies.
This research was financially supported by Project for Specific University Research (SGS) No.
SP2017/8 from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic & Faculty of
Mining and Geology of VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava.
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In vitro cryopreservation is the storage of viable cells at ultra-low temperatures (196ºC), usually in liquid nitrogen or its vapor phase. Under these conditions it is assumed that metabolism is arrested and cells are stable for indefinite periods, so long as liquid nitrogen supply is maintained. The fact that cells tolerate cryogenic temperatures is remarkable as survival after cryopreservation is common to a wide range of biodiversity. The in vitro cryobank is one of the most, if not the most extreme low-temperature environment that an organism, or component part thereof, will ever encounter on earth. It is fascinating to speculate how, with the aid of cryoprotection (Fuller, 2004) so many diverse life-forms survive such extreme cold. Cryopreservation has important applications for astrobiology and in vivo studies of extremophiles; as water and temperature are physical determinants of life, indeed water is a prerequisite for life. This chapter considers cryoconservation in a wider context, appraising the comparative utilities of both natural and artificial cryobanks as repositories and research tools that may be used to help understand how life survives extreme cold. Algae are the subject of choice as they are one of the oldest and most diverse groups of organisms; their ancestral, fossil remains have been found in strata dating from 1.4 billion to 2.1 billion years (Cloud et al., 1969; Han and Runnegar, 1992). Algae are ubiquitous primary producers and formidable extremophiles, yet, compared with other biological resources, their preservation in cryobanks (Day et al., 2005) and their utilization as a valuable economic resource remains limited.
Black and brown patches, indicating the growth of certain cyanobacteria, are very common on building surfaces in the tropics. The patches are mainly comprised of colonial species of cyanobacteria such as Gloecapsa, Gloeothece, Aphanocapsa, and Choococcus, and filamentous species like Scytonema and Tolypothrix. The colonial forms were primary colonizers.Water relation studies revealed that colonial and filamentous crusts which absorbed nearly 165% and 191% water at 0 bar osmotic water potential, lost up to 60, 70 and 80% of the absorbed water on exposure to the atmosphere of −28, −46 and −210 bar in time periods of about 10, 9 and 7 hours, respectively, at 32 °C. The colonial and filamentous crusts, growing as well as dried over conc. H2SO4, were separately subjected to various water potentials—matric, osmotic and osmotic-oversaturated — at 0 bar and temperatures to study their viability and growth in terms of 14CO2 fixation. It was found that 0 bar osmotic water potential and 30 °C temperature were optimum for 14CO2 fixation. When the dried algae exposed to higher temperatures (55–110 °C) were grown, they did not show much variation in 14CO2 fixation compared to the unexposed algae.
The paper summarizes the present knowledge on the most important terrestrial habitats for algae and deals with soil, lithophytic, cave, snow and ice, epiphytic, and epizooic algae. For each habitat the physical parameters of the environment, the characteristic vegetation, and the functioning of the ecosystem are detailed. L’article présente une revue de l’état actuel de nos connaissances sur les habitats terrestres les plus importants pour les algues et traite d’algues du sol, des rochers, des grottes, de la neige et de la glace, d’algues épiphytiques et épizoïques. Pour chaque habitat les paramètres physiques de l’environnement, la végétation caractéristique et le fonctionnement de l’écosystème sont détaillés. Der Artikel beschreibt den aktuellen Stand unserer Kenntnisse der wichtigsten terrestrischen Standorte der Algen und behandelt Algen die im Boden, auf Felsen, in Höhlen, auf Schnee und Eis, auf Pflanzen, und auf Tieren vorkommen. Für jeden Standort werden die physikalischen Parametern, die charakteristische Vegetation und das Funktionieren des Ökosystems geschildert.
Vyd. 1. Nad názvem: Vysoké učení technické v Brně, Fakulta stavební Studijní opory pro studijní programy s kombinovanou formou studia
Cultural heritage monuments may be discolored and degraded by growth and activity of living organisms. Microorganisms form biofilms on surfaces of stone, with resulting aesthetic and structural damage. The organisms involved are bacteria (including actinomycetes and cyanobacteria), fungi, archaea, algae, and lichens. Interactions between these organisms and stone can enhance or retard the overall rate of degradation. Microorganisms within the stone structure (endoliths) also cause damage. They grow in cracks and pores and may bore into rocks. True endoliths, present within the rock, have been detected in calcareous and some siliceous stone monuments and are predominantly bacterial. The taxonomic groups differ from those found epilithically at the same sites. The nature of the stone substrate and the environmental conditions influence the extent of biofilm colonization and the biodeterioration processes. A critical review of work on microbial biofilms on buildings of historic interest, including recent innovations resulting from molecular biology, is presented and microbial activities causing degradation are discussed.