Aerobiology: An ecological indicator for early detection and control of fungal outbreaks in caves


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November 2011


Aerobiology of caves is still in its infancy. At present, no clear information has been generated on the limits of acceptance of fungal spores in air which permit classification of the atmosphere of a cave as not dangerous for the conservation of rock-art paintings. We had the unique opportunity to visit and sample different caves in Spain and France, under different managements. We obtained a collection of data related with contamination episodes that permitted the formulation of a tentative index of fungal hazard in show caves. This is supported by the concentration of fungal spores in the cave air, the knowledge of the cave history and management, and a detailed survey of the different halls of the caves. The index classifies the risks into five categories: category 1 identifies a cave without fungal problems, category 2 is an alarm signal for caves, category 3 is a cave threatened by fungi, category 4 is assigned to a cave already affected by fungi, and category 5 is a cave with an irreversible ecological disturbance. This index, a working hypothesis, is launched to promote interest and forum discussion and should be validated by the scientific community after being updated with more surveys and cave analyses carried out under different managements and with different contamination episodes.


Aerobiology, Show Caves, Fungi, Fungal Outbreaks

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