Endolithic cyanobacteria in Maastricht limestone
Faculty of Sciences. Chemistry
The science of the total environment. - Amsterdam
, p. 209-220
University of Antwerp
The Maastricht limestone used for the construction of the 14th century O.L. Basilica in Tongeren, Belgium, is a light yellowish, porous, soft rock of the Late Cretaceous age. The limestone has a high carbonate content (> 95%); quartz and glauconite occur rarely. On the north side of the building, there is extensive growth of epilithic algae. On the south side, an assemblage of organisms was observed beneath the abiotic surface. This community, developed as a green layer 1 mm below the surface, is dominated by cyanobacteria. A moss was also present. The organisms were studied by transmitted light, phase contrast and scanning electron microscopy, and isolated in cultures. The cyanobacteria belong to the genera Synechococcus and Chroococcidiopsis, and the moss was identified as Tortula muralis Hedw. The organic matter present in the green layer was characterized in terms of molecular components using analytical pyrolysis. Pyrolysis products from polysaccharides and proteins, and evaporation/pyrolysis products from lipids, comprise the vast majority of identified compounds. The identification of specific biomarkers such as 7-methylheptadecane is further evidence of the presence of cyanobacteria. Phytenes and phytadienes are indicative of phototrophic organisms, as they are pyrolysis products from chlorophylls.