Microscopic evidence of sandstone deterioration and damage by fungi isolated from the Angkor monuments in simulation experiments

Tomohiro Inaba, Tomoyuki Hori, Megumi Tsuchiya, Hideyuki Ihara, Etsuo Uchida, Ji-Dong Gu, Yoko Katayama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Angkor monuments have been registered on the World Cultural Heritage List of UNESCO, while the buildings built mostly of sandstone are suffering from serious deterioration and damage. Microorganisms are one of the leading causes for the sandstone deterioration. Identification of the mechanisms underlying the biodeterioration is of significance because it reveals the biochemical reaction involved so that effective conservation and restoration of cultural properties can be achieved. In this study, the fungal colonization and biodeterioration of sandstone in simulation experiments were examined using confocal reflection microscopy (CRM) and scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS). Aspergillus sp. strain AW1 and Paecilomyces sp. strain BY8 isolated from the deteriorated sandstone of Angkor Wat and Bayon of Angkor Thom, respectively, were inoculated and incubated with the sandstone used for construction of Angkor Wat. With CRM, we could visualize that strain AW1 tightly attached to and broke in the sandstone with extension of the hyphae. Quantitative imaging analyses showed that the sandstone surface roughness increased and the cavities formed under the fungal hyphae deepened during the incubation of strains AW1 and BY8. These highlighted that the massive growth of fungi even under the culture conditions was associated with the cavity formation of the sandstone and its expansion. Furthermore, SEM-EDS indicated the flat and Si-rich materials, presumably quartz and feldspar, were found frequently at the intact sandstone surface. But the flatness was lost during the incubation, possibly due to the detachment of the Si-rich mineral particles by the fungal deterioration. Consequently, this study proposed a biodeterioration model of the sandstone in that the hyphae of fungi elongated on the surface of the sandstone to penetrate into the soft and porous sandstone matrix, damaging the matrix and gradually destabilize the hard and Si-rich minerals, such as quartz and feldspar, to the collapse and cavities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2023


  • Angkor Wat
  • Aspergillus sp. strain AW1
  • Bayon of Angkor Thom
  • Paecilomyces sp. strain BY8
  • Sandstone biodeterioration


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