Rock art paintings represent fragile ecosystems supporting complex microbial communities tuned to the lithic substrate and climatic conditions. The composition and activity of these microbial communities associated with different weathering patterns affecting rock art sites remain unexplored. This study aimed to explore how bacterial communities adapt their ecological strategies based on substrate weathering, while also examining the role of their metabolic pathways in either biodeterioration or bioprotection of the underlying stone. SEM-EDS investigations coupled with 16S rRNA gene sequencing and PICRUSt2 analysis were applied on different weathered surfaces that affect southern Ethiopian rock paintings to investigate the relationships between the current stone microbiome and weathering patterns. The findings revealed that samples experiencing low and high weathering reached a climax stage characterized by stable microenvironments and limited resources. This condition favored K-strategist microorganisms, leading to reduced alpha-biodiversity and a community with a positive or neutral impact on the substrate. In contrast, moderately-weathered samples displayed diverse micro habitats, resulting in the prevalence of r-strategist bacteria, increased alpha-biodiversity, and the presence of specialist microorganisms. Moreover, the bacterial communities in moderately-weathered samples demonstrated the highest potential for carbon fixation, stress responses, and complete nitrogen and sulfur cycles. This bacterial community also showed the potential to negatively impact the underlying substrate. This research provided valuable insights into the little-understood ecology of bacterial communities inhabiting deteriorated surfaces, shedding light on the potential role of these microorganisms in the sustainable conservation of rock art.

Ecological strategies of bacterial communities in prehistoric stone wall paintings across weathering gradients: A case study from the Borana zone in southern Ethiopia

Mugnai, Gianmarco;
2024

Abstract

Rock art paintings represent fragile ecosystems supporting complex microbial communities tuned to the lithic substrate and climatic conditions. The composition and activity of these microbial communities associated with different weathering patterns affecting rock art sites remain unexplored. This study aimed to explore how bacterial communities adapt their ecological strategies based on substrate weathering, while also examining the role of their metabolic pathways in either biodeterioration or bioprotection of the underlying stone. SEM-EDS investigations coupled with 16S rRNA gene sequencing and PICRUSt2 analysis were applied on different weathered surfaces that affect southern Ethiopian rock paintings to investigate the relationships between the current stone microbiome and weathering patterns. The findings revealed that samples experiencing low and high weathering reached a climax stage characterized by stable microenvironments and limited resources. This condition favored K-strategist microorganisms, leading to reduced alpha-biodiversity and a community with a positive or neutral impact on the substrate. In contrast, moderately-weathered samples displayed diverse micro habitats, resulting in the prevalence of r-strategist bacteria, increased alpha-biodiversity, and the presence of specialist microorganisms. Moreover, the bacterial communities in moderately-weathered samples demonstrated the highest potential for carbon fixation, stress responses, and complete nitrogen and sulfur cycles. This bacterial community also showed the potential to negatively impact the underlying substrate. This research provided valuable insights into the little-understood ecology of bacterial communities inhabiting deteriorated surfaces, shedding light on the potential role of these microorganisms in the sustainable conservation of rock art.
2024
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11391/1565796
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