Strahler number

In mathematics, the Strahler number or Horton–Strahler number of a mathematical tree is a numerical measure of its branching complexity.

Diagram showing the Strahler stream order

These numbers were first developed in hydrology by Robert E. Horton (1945) and Arthur Newell Strahler (1952, 1957); in this application, they are referred to as the Strahler stream order and are used to define stream size based on a hierarchy of tributaries. They also arise in the analysis of L-systems and of hierarchical biological structures such as (biological) trees and animal respiratory and circulatory systems, in register allocation for compilation of high-level programming languages and in the analysis of social networks. Alternative stream ordering systems have been developed by Shreve[1][2] and Hodgkinson et al.[3] A statistical comparison of Strahler and Shreve systems, together with an analysis of stream/link lengths, is given by Smart.[4]


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