Lascaux Cave in France contains valuable Palaeolithic paintings. The importance of the paintings, one of the finest examples of European rock art paintings, was recognized shortly after their discovery in 1940. In the 60’s of the past century the cave received a huge number of visitors and suffered a microbial crisis due to the impact of massive tourism and the previous adaptation works carried out to facilitate visits. In 1963, the cave was closed due to the damage produced by visitors’ breath, lighting and algal growth on the paintings. In 2001, an outbreak of the fungus Fusarium solani covered the walls and sediments. Later, black stains, produced by the growth of the fungus Ochroconis lascauxensis, appeared on the walls. In 2006, the extensive black stains constituted the third major microbial crisis. In an attempt to know the dispersion of microorganisms inside the cave, aerobiological and microclimate studies were carried out in two different seasons, when a climate system for preventing condensation of water vapor on the walls was active (September 2010) or inactive (February 2010). The data showed that in September the convection currents created by the climate system evacuated the airborne microorganisms whereas in February they remained in suspension which explained the high concentrations of bacteria and fungi found in the air. This double aerobiological and microclimate study inLascauxCave can help to understand the dispersion of microorganisms and to adopt measures for a correct cave management.



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