Diversity of an aerial phototrophic coating of historic buildings in the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp


Nowicka-Krawczyk P, Żelazna-Wieczorek J, Otlewska A, Koziróg A, Rajkowska K, Piotrowska M, Gutarowska B, Żydzik-Białek A.
Sci Total Environ. 2014 Sep 15;493:116-23


Aerial phototrophs colonize materials of anthropogenic origin, thus contributing to their biodeterioration. Structures preserved at the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp show signs of degradation by cyanobacteria and algae. In order to protect the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Site, diversity of aerial phototrophs growing on the historic buildings has been studied. Analyses of cyanobacterial and algal biofilms growing on various construction substrates were carried out in summer and winter. Multivariate data analyses were used to: characterize the diversity of cyanobacteria and algae growing in brick and wooden camp buildings depending on the research season, indicate preferences of cyanobacteria and algae in colonizing substrates, and to predict the environmental factor that most determines the growth of phototrophs. The biofilms were formed mainly by cyanobacteria, green algae and diatoms. The amount of cyanobacteria and algae in the biofilms was varied, which resulted from changes in climatic conditions, the type of substrate and the height at which the biofilms developed. In the summer, the ratio of cyanobacteria and algae groups was balanced, while in the winter, green algae and diatoms were dominant. Green algae showed a preference for colonizing plaster, wood and concrete, of which the walls and doors of the buildings were made. Their participation was correlated with a height gradient. Cyanobacteria and diatoms grew on bricks and soil on the floor of the buildings and temperature and relative humidity were the factors that modified their amount. Green algae were more cosmopolitan—occurred in dry places, potentially inaccessible to other organisms; therefore, they have been identified as the pioneer group in the prevailing climatic conditions