Mapping stone surface temperature fluctuations: Implications for lichen distribution and biomodification on historic stone surfaces

John McIlroy De La Rosa, Manuel Casares Porcel, Patricia Warke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The exposure of historic stone to processes of lichen-induced surface biomodification is determined, first and foremost, by the bioreceptivity of those surfaces to lichen colonization. As an important component of surface bioreceptivity, spatiotemporal variation in stone surface temperature plays a critical role in the spatial distribution of saxicolous lichen on historic stone structures, especially within seasonally hot environments. The ornate limestone and tufa stairwell of the Monastery of Cartuja (1516), Granada, Spain, exhibits significant aspect-related differences in lichen distribution. Lichen coverage and
diurnal fluctuations in stone surface temperature on the stairwell were monitored and mapped, under anticyclonic conditions in summer and winter, using an infrared thermometer and Geographical Information Systems approach. This research suggests that it is not extreme high surface temperatures that
determine the presence or absence of lichen coverage on stonework. Instead, average stone surface temperatures
over the course of the year seem to play a critical role in determining whether or not surfaces are receptive to lichen colonization and subsequent biomodification. It is inferred that lichen, capable of surviving extreme surface temperatures during the Mediterranean summer in an ametabolic state, require a respite period of lower temperatures within which they can metabolize, grow and reproduce.
The higher the average annual temperature a surface experiences, the shorter the respite period for any lichen potentially inhabiting that surface. A critical average temperature threshold of approximately 21 ?C has been identified on the stairwell, with average stone surface temperatures greater than this
generally inhibiting lichen colonization. A brief visual condition assessment between lichen-covered and lichen-free surfaces on the limestone sections of the stairwell suggests relative bioprotection induced by lichen coverage, with stonework quality and sharpness remaining more defined beneath lichen-covered surfaces. The methodology employed in this paper may have further applications in the monitoring and mapping of thermal stress fatigue on historic building materials.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cultural Heritage
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Surface temperature
  • Lichen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • History


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