Rodrigo Ortiz a, *, Hugo Navarrete a, José Navarrete b, Mario Párraga c, Ivo Carrasco d, Eduardo de la Vega c, Manuel Ortiz a, Paula Herrera b, Robert A. Blanchette e
a Escuela de Construcción Civil, Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad de Valparaíso, Blanco 951, Valparaíso, Chile
b Departamento de Ingeniería en Maderas, Facultad de Ingeniería, Universidad del Bío Bío, Chile, Avenida Collao 1202, Casilla 5-C CP: 4051381, Chile c Centro de Investigaciones Biomédicas, Escuela de Medicina, Universidad de Valparaíso, Blanco 951, Valparaíso, Chile
d Laboratorio de Investigación en Perinatología, Centro de Investigaciones Médicas, Facultad de Medicina, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Marcoleta 391, Santiago, Chile
e Department of Plant Pathology, University of Minnesota, 495 Borlaug Hall, 1991 Upper Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA
The use of wood in construction has been part of mankind’s history but wood placed into the envi- ronment is affected by biotic and abiotic agents and is degraded over time. Even in extreme environ- ments, such as dry desert sites, deterioration of wood can take place. One site located in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile is the Humberstone and Santa Laura saltpeter works where offices and other structures were built of wood. Founded in 1872, the Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 for its historic significance. Since significant deteri- oration in the wooden buildings has taken place, investigations were initiated to better understand the degradation underway so conservation efforts to protect the historic buildings can be developed. The objectives of this study were to identify the type of deterioration and decay taking place and to isolate and identify fungi from wood samples of structural elements at both sites. Samples of deteriorated wood showed extensive degradation that resulted in a defibration of the wood. The middle lamella between cells was degraded and remaining secondary walls separated due to high concentrations of salts. This resulted in a serious corrosion of the exterior layers of wood cells. Although high salts inhibit fungi, many different fungi were isolated. Sequencing of the ITS region of the rDNA was used and fungi were iden- tified as Penicillium chrysogenum, Engyodontium album, Eupenicillium tropicum, Penicillium digitatum, Pseudotaeniolina globosa, Cladosporium phaenocomae, Aureobasidium pullulans, Penicillium virgatum, Coprinopsis sp. and Phanerochaete sordida. Several of these fungi appear to be halophilic.