A Review on the Biological Role and the Economic Importance of Wood Deteriorating Organisms in the Marine Environment

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

Second Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Scott Schatz

Second Advisor

Andrew Rogerson


This paper reviews the organisms that have been isolated growing on wood materials submerged in marine aquatic environments. The concern is that any wooden structure placed in the water for an extended period of time becomes a target for one or more groups of wood degrading organisms.

Initial invasion is by marine bacteria and fungi that decompose lignin and cellulose as a source of energy. The superficial infestation of wood by microorganisms is considered to play a minor role in wood degradation. The microbial decay is believed to enhance settlement of marine borer larvae leading to subsequent deep attack of the wood. The most important agents of biodeterioration of wood in the sea are the marine wood boring animals.

The most common woodborers belong to the crustacean genus Limnoridae (commonly called gribbles) and the mollusks of the family Teredinidae (commonly called shipworms) and Pholadidae. By burrowing into the wood they create internal tunnels. They feed on the wood while excavating the tunnels that also serve as their habitat. These organisms have been responsible for millions of dollars of damage annually to waterfront structures.

Strategies to control these borers will be discussed. They include a pre-penetration technique that prevents infestation by placing a barrier around the wood or a post penetration approach that uses chemicals to kill the organisms that have settled before they cause structural damage. The paper will summarize the different strategies taking into account their effectiveness and environmental impact.

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