Self-Organising Maps for the Classification and Diagnosis of River Quality from Biological and Environmental Data

  • William J. Walley
  • Raymond W. Martin
  • Mark A. O’Connor
Part of the IFIP — The International Federation for Information Processing book series (IFIPAICT, volume 39)


The paper addresses the problem of how to classify and diagnose the state of health of a river from the composition of its biological community. It is claimed that experts use two complex mental processes when interpreting such data, knowledge-based reasoning and pattern recognition. It is argued that existing classification methods are inadequate and that the application of advanced computer-based techniques is vital to the realisation of the full potential of biological monitoring. The paper then concentrates on a pattern recognition approach and demonstrates how Self Organising Maps (SOM), a type of unsupervised-learning neural network, can be used to classify and diagnose river quality. A brief introduction is given to the theory of SOMs and the interpretation of their output, as expressed in feature maps and class templates. SOMs are developed using two different methods of accounting for the confounding effects of environmental factors, and their relative performances are compared. Some improvements to the SOM architecture and functionality that are currently being implemented are briefly described, together with plans to use information theory for the assessment of performance. Finally, it is concluded that the methods of classification/diagnosis described in the paper have considerable potential not only in river quality monitoring, but also in other environmental fields.

Key words

Neural networks pattern recognition self-organising maps river quality biomonitoring RIVPACS pollution classification diagnosis. 


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Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • William J. Walley
    • 1
  • Raymond W. Martin
    • 1
  • Mark A. O’Connor
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Intelligent Environmental Systems, School of ComputingStaffordshire UniversityBeaconside, StaffordUK

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