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A concurrent neuro-fuzzy inference system for screening the ecological risk in rivers



A conceptual model to assess water quality in river basins was developed here. The model was based on ecological risk assessment principles, and incorporated a novel ranking and scoring system, based on self-organizing maps, to account for the likely ecological hazards posed by the presence of chemical substances in freshwater. This approach was used to study the chemical pollution in the Ebro River basin (Spain), whose currently applied environmental indices must be revised in terms of scientific accuracy.


Ecological hazard indexes for chemical substances were calculated by pattern recognition of persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity properties. A fuzzy inference system was proposed to compute ecological risk points (ERP), which are a combination of the ecological hazard to aquatic sensitive organisms and environmental concentrations. By aggregating ERP, changes in water quality over time were estimated.


The proposed concurrent neuro-fuzzy model was applied to a comprehensive dataset of the network controlling the levels of dangerous substances, such as metals, pesticides, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, in the Ebro river basin. The approach was verified by comparison versus biological monitoring. The results showed that water quality in the Ebro river basin is affected by presence of micro-pollutants.


The ERP approach is suitable to analyze overall trends of potential threats to freshwater ecosystems by anticipating the likely impacts from multiple substances, although it does not account for synergies among pollutants. Anyhow, the model produces a convenient indicator to search for pollutant levels of concern.

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This research has been supported by the Program Alban (scholarship E04D028890CO), Obra Social Caixa Sabadell, and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation through the project Consolider-Ingenio 2010 CSD2009-00065. The authors thank Susana Cortés for her valuable collaboration in providing the required database.

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Correspondence to Marta Schuhmacher.

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Responsible editor: Markus Hecker

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Ocampo-Duque, W., Juraske, R., Kumar, V. et al. A concurrent neuro-fuzzy inference system for screening the ecological risk in rivers. Environ Sci Pollut Res 19, 983–999 (2012).

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  • Fuzzy inference systems
  • Self-organizing maps
  • Ecological risk assessment
  • Water quality
  • Ebro River (Spain)