Lost in translation: South Africa’s diatom history

29 September 2012

Frontispiece of the Cholnoky text

Some decades ago a unique text was produced by the Hungarian diatomologist, Béla Cholnoky, working in South Africa – viz. CHOLNOKY BJ (1968) Die Ökologie der Diatomeen in Binnengewässern (published by J Cramer, Lehre).  Dr Cholnoky is internationally recognized as a pioneer of diatomology. This book contains not only the bulk of his diatom work but also exceedingly valuable and unique information on and descriptions of South African rivers, streams and wetlands “as they were” more than half a century ago -i.e. the elusive ‘reference condition’ against which anthropogenic impacts and changes can be measured.   Additionally, the work contains the ecological inferences that can be drawn from various assemblages of diatoms in rivers and streams. The index to this text is a veritable roadmap of South African locations – and the value of this historical information, for guiding strategic management decisions, should not be underestimated.

The publication has been out of print for many years. While we have copies, the work is in German and largely inaccessible to most South African researchers. The value of the information is of a cosmopolitan nature and not limited to South Africa alone. This is a seminal textbook on diatom ecology and most modern index systems are based on the ecological information in the book.

I have proposed that the work be translated into English, taxonomically-updated and republished. The original publishers have agreed to republish the work, provided that I can have it translated.  Translators have been found, editors for the revised text lined up, but sadly, no positive responses to requests for funding.

I would like to reiterate this appeal to anyone who may be in a position to assist with this very important initiative.

I have included below a copy of a page, for samples for St Lucia in KwaZulu Natal,  that I have had translated:

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