River networks- Bifurcation Ratios
In the application of the Strahler stream order to hydrology, each segment of a stream or river within a river network is treated as a node in a tree, with the next segment downstream as its parent. When two first-order streams come together, they form a second-order stream. When two second-order streams come together, they form a third-order stream. Streams of lower order joining a higher order stream do not change the order of the higher stream. Thus, if a first-order stream joins a second-order stream, it remains a second-order stream. It is not until a second-order stream combines with another second-order stream that it becomes a third-order stream. As with mathematical trees, a segment with index i must be fed by at least 2i ? 1 different tributaries of index 1.
To qualify as a stream a hydrological feature must be either recurring or perennial. Recurring streams have water in the channel for at least part of the year. The index of a stream or river may range from 1 (a stream with no tributaries) to 12 (the most powerful, river, the Amazon, at its mouth). The Ohio River is of order eight and the Mississippi River is of order 10. 80% of the streams and rivers on the planet are first or second order.
If the bifurcation ratio of a river network is low, there is a higher chance of flooding, as the water will be concentrated in one channel rather than spread out, as a higher bifurcation ratio would indicate. The bifurcation ratio can also show which parts of a drainage basin is more likely to flood, comparatively, by looking at the separate ratios. Most British rivers have a bifurcation ratio of between 3 and 5. [2