The use of wood in construction has had a long history and Chile has a rich cultural heritage of using native woods for building churches and other important structures. In 2000, UNESCO designated a number of the historic churches of Chiloé, built entirely of native woods, as World Heritage Sites. These unique churches were built in the late 1700 s and throughout the 1800 s, and because of their age and exposure to the environment, they have been found to have serious deterioration problems. Efforts are underway to better understand these decay processes and to carryout conservation efforts for the long-term preservation of these important structures. This study characterized the types of degradation taking place and identified the wood decay fungi obtained from eight historic churches in Chiloé, seven of them designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Micromorphological observations identified white, brown and soft rot in the structural woods and isolations provided pure cultures of fungi that were identified by sequencing of the internal transcribed region of rDNA. Twenty-nine Basidiomycota and 18 Ascomycota were found. These diverse groups of fungi represent several genera and species not previously reported from Chile and demonstrates a varied microflora is causing decay in these historic buildings.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank the Dirección de Investigación of the Universidad de Valparaíso (DIUV) for financial support through Project 40/2008, “Identificación de hongos de pudrición y determinación de los procesos de degradación de maderas obtenidas de tres sitios considerados como Patrimonio de la Humanidad en Chile”. We also thank the Laboratorio de Biodeterioro of the Departamento de Ingeniería en Maderas of the Universidad del Bío-Bío, the Laboratorio de Biodeterioro y Biodegradación de Materiales of the Escuela de Construcción Civil of the Universidad de Valparaíso, the Laboratorio de Biología Molecular of the Departamento de Ciencias Biomédicas of the Universidad de Valparaíso and the Laboratorio de Bioquímica y Biología Oral of the Universidad de Chile for their valuable cooperation. A special thanks to the Fundación de Amigos de las Iglesias de Chiloé and the Comunidades de las Iglesias for providing access to the sites and permission to take wood samples from the historic woods.