The quality of water prior to its use for drinking, farming or recreational purposes must comply with several physicochemical and microbiological standards to safeguard society and the environment. In order to satisfy these standards, expensive analyses and highly trained personnel in laboratories are required. Whereas macroinvertebrates have been used as ecological indicators to review the health of aquatic ecosystems. In this research, the relationship between microbial pathogens and macrobenthic invertebrate taxa was examined in the Machangara River located in the southern Andes of Ecuador, in which 33 sites, according to their land use, were chosen to collect physicochemical, microbiological and biological parameters. Decision tree models (DTMs) were used to generate rules that link the presence and abundance of some benthic families to microbial pathogen standards. The aforementioned DTMs provide an indirect, approximate, and quick way of checking the fulfillment of Ecuadorian regulations for water use related to microbial pathogens. The models built and optimized with the WEKA package, were evaluated based on both statistical and ecological criteria to make them as clear and simple as possible. As a result, two different and reliable models were obtained, which could be used as proxy indicators in a preliminary assessment of pollution of microbial pathogens in rivers. The DTMs can be easily applied by staff with minimal training in the identification of the sensitive taxa selected by the models. The presence of selected macroinvertebrate taxa in conjunction with the decision trees can be used as a screening tool to evaluate sites that require additional follow up analyses to confirm whether microbial water quality standards are met.
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