Developing composite indicators for ecological water quality assessment based on network interactions and expert judgment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Xianfu Zhao
  • Peiming Ma
  • Shiyun Chi
  • Keith Richards

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Ministry of Water Resources and Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • University of Cambridge


Increasingly, composite indicators and multi-criteria approaches are applied in environmental assessment and decision-making, including the EU Water Framework Directive. For example, integrated evaluation of aquatic ecosystem conditions and functioning usually involves a group of criteria, such as biological organisms and communities, physicochemical and hydromorphological variables, which are measured individually and combined by a weighted linear function into an overall 'score’. We argue that the network interactions of evaluation components are useful information for expert judgments, which have not been sufficiently considered in existing multi-criteria combination strategies in environmental assessment and management. Built upon the Analytic Network Process and demonstrated with the Chishui River Basin in China, this paper introduces a network-based expert judgment approach to construct ecological water quality indicators, and to determine and adjust their variable weight settings with information of interaction networks. This approach has potential to construct composite indicators for a broad environmental context.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-62
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Modelling and Software
Early online date15 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • Analytic network process, Composite indicator, Ecological network, Ecological water quality assessment, Integrated river basin management, Multi-criteria decision-making