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Modelling the impact of future climate change on museum pests - insects and fungi

Project leader:
Katja Sterflinger (INTK)

Project team:
Katja Sterflinger, Katharina Derksen (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, INTK), Pascal Querner (Natural History Museum Vienna)

4 years

Funded by:
Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) | Heritage Science Austria

ÖAW | Heritage Science Austria
led by Katja Sterflinger, Institute for Natural Sciences and Technology in the Arts
Duration: 1.7.2021 – 30.6.2025

This project aims at gaining a better understanding of how climate change affects pests (insects and fungi) in museums, libraries and historic buildings. More specifically, the project will collect in-situ data on insects, fungi and climate from Austrian heritage institutions in order to establish the statistical relationship between outdoor climate, indoor climate and pest abundance and activity. The findings will be employed to develop projections of the future populations of typical museum pests based on the most recent climate change scenarios.

Although the socio-economic significance of climate change is widely recognized, its potential to affect our cultural heritage was not explicit in the IPCC reports so far. A number of recent studies examine the direct impact of climate on buildings and collections. However, a warming climate and extreme weather events also fosters the development of various pests such as insects and fungi ("mould") which are infesting and damaging collections. Comprehensive studies based on in-situ data on museum pests and the corresponding indoor climate data are lacking. Those will be complemented by laboratory experiments on the impact of climate on common and new museum pests to develop a pest climate response model.

In this interdisciplinary project conservators in museums, entomologists, microbiologists, climate and building experts work together to develop statistical models and future strategies.