Saturday, May 19, 2007

LIPI launches book on Java flora

Friday, April 27, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI) is launching a book on mountainous flora in Java in an attempt to raise awareness of the richness of the country's biodiversity and to provide a reference for environmental and biological studies.

The newly-published book is an Indonesian language translation of The Mountain Flora of Java, written by Dutch botanist C.C.G.J. van Steenis. It was first published by E.J. Brill in Leiden, the Netherlands, in 1972.

"As a researcher, ever since I was at university, I viewed this book as a special text due to its contents, pictures and spirit. Even until now, it is important to and admired by many people, though the number of volumes is very limited. At a time when biodiversity is degrading, this book is becoming even more important," the head of LIPI's Biological Research Center, Dedy Darnaedi, told reporters at the book's launching, Thursday.

"This book is not only scientific but also inspiring to many people. My generation has an obligation to make this book widely read by Indonesians. I hope it can raise awareness of the richness of our biodiversity," Dedy said.

Initially intended as a guide for explorers and nature lovers, the book was saturated with pictures of 456 species of plants, all drawn by the late Sundanese artists Amir Hamzah and Moehammad Toha. The water-color illustrations were painted during their careers as painters at the Bogor Botanical Garden between 1927 and 1949.

"This is heritage for us. As many as 456 species of mountainous plants have been perfectly captured, from both an aesthetic and scientific point of view. And this happened when some of us were not even born yet," said Jeny Kartawinata, the book's Indonesian translator.

She said the book addressed the relationship between flora and volcanoes, Java's climate, the volcanology of Java in relation to the origins of mountains, the vegetation there and the benefits this brings to the local people.

"Everything related to volcanoes and the characteristics of a volcanic environment is explained in detail, but in a simple and clear way. As a non-expert, you can read the book without intellectual barriers," Jeny said.

The translator was drawn to working on the book in 1995 by its content. It was not until 2005, however, that she began seriously translating the text.

Jeny was aided by two ecologists, Tukirin Partomihardjo and Kuswata Kartawinata, and a taxonomist, Elizabeth Widjaja, who proof read the translated text.

"I have learned very much from the book just because I read the translation. Most students and experts ... usually take only a few pages to read in relation to our purposes," Tukiran said, adding that he estimated the book covered 50-60 percent of the flora on Java, but that some of it was now endangered.

"This is a masterpiece on the flora of Java. No other book has such complete descriptions and pictures," said Elizabeth Widjaja.

Publisher E.J. Brill has granted LIPI the copyright for the book's Indonesian edition. Funds totaling US$12,500 were provided by the World Bank and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the printing of 1,000 copies.

The 259-page Indonesian version is published by Grafika Desa Putra. All of its pictures are printed on a scale of 1:1, the same size as in the original version. (02)

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