Diatoms as indicators of water quality in the Jukskei-Crocodile river system in 1956 and 1957, a re-analysis of diatom count data generated by BJ Cholnoky

  • JC Taylor
  • WR Harding
  • CGM Archibald
  • L van Rensburg


South Africa has a long legacy of diatom research. The eminent diatomist Dr BJ Cholnoky spent much of his working life examining and enumerating diatom communities found in Southern Africa. Most if not all of Cholnoky's collected diatom material in the form of mounted material on glass slides accompanied by diatom analysis sheets is stored in the South African Diatom Collection currently housed at the CSIR in Durban. As Cholnoky only employed enumeration methods yielding a margin of error of 2% or less, Cholnoky's results should provide an accurate reflection of the structure of the diatom communities that he examined. It is the aim of the present study to demonstrate the value of these historical diatom analyses for inferring past water quality conditions using the diatom-based index method. Data for the Jukskei-Crocodile River system were obtained from the South African Diatom Collection for the period 1956/1957. The nomenclature of the diatoms listed on Cholnoky's data sheets was modernised and the data then entered into OMNIDIA v3.1. Diatom index scores generated from OMNIDIA v3.1 were in general in agreement with Cholnoky's own assessment of water quality (especially with reference to organic pollution). It is concluded that the diatom analysis records housed in the South African Diatom Collection constitute a valuable resource for the assessment of past conditions of rivers and streams..

Water SA Vol. 31 (2) 2005: pp.237-246

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0378-4738