Solving the mystery of vanishing rivers in China
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A major controversy was sparked worldwide by a recent national water census claiming that the number of Chinese rivers with watersheds ≥100 km2 was less than half the previous estimate of 50 000 rivers, which also stimulates debates on the potential causes and consequences. Here, we estimated the number of rivers in terms of stream-segmentation characteristics described by Horton, Strahler and Shreve stream-order rules, as well as their mixed mode for named rivers recorded in the Encyclopedia of Rivers and Lakes in China. As a result, the number of 'vanishing rivers' has been found to be highly relevant to statistical specifications in addition to the erroneous inclusion of pseudo-rivers primarily generated in arid or frost-thaw areas. The modified Horton stream-order scheme reasonably depicts the configuration of complete natural streams from headwater to destination, while the Strahler largely projects the fragmentation of the named river networks associated with human aggregation to the hierarchical river systems.
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