Biodeterioration is a serious threat to cultural heritage objects and buildings. The deterioration of a given material often incurs irreparable losses in terms of uniqueness and historical value. Hence preventive actions should be taken. One important challenge is to identify microbes involved in the biodeterioration process. In this study, we analyzed the microbial diversity of an ancient architectonical structure of the Rotunda of Sts. Felix and Adauctus, which is a part of the Wawel Royal Castle located in Krakow, Poland. The Rotunda is unavailable to tourists and could be treated as an extreme habitat due to the low content of nutrients coming either from sandstone plates bound with lime mortar or air movement. Microbial diversity was analyzed with the use of the high-throughput sequencing of marker genes corresponding to fragments of 16S rDNA (for Bacteria) and ITS2 (internal transcribed spacer 2) (for Fungi). The results showed that the microbial community adhered to wall surfaces is, to a large extent, endemic. Furthermore, alongside many microorganisms that could be destructive to masonry and mortar (e.g., Pseudomonas, Aspergillus), there were also bacteria, such as species of genera Bacillus, Paenisporosarcina, and Amycolatopsis, that can positively affect wall surface properties by reducing the damage caused by the presence of other microorganisms. We also showed that airborne microorganisms probably have little impact on the biodeterioration process as their abundance in the microbial community adhered to the ancient walls was very low.
Keywords: biodeterioration; extreme environment; high-throughput sequencing; lime mortar; limited nutrient conditions; microbial diversity; sandstone.