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A model of the world’s rivers and streams has been developed to predict which of these watercourses flow all year round and which go dry. The analysis shows that rivers and streams that run dry are ubiquitous throughout the world.
The flowing waters of surface rivers and streams efficiently transport sediment, organic material and nutrients, among other things, from hillsides and overland areas to downstream lakes, reservoirs and the ocean. Along the way, rivers and streams (hereafter referred to collectively as streams) provide important resources for our communities and support rich, complex ecosystems. Non-perennial streams, which do not flow year-round, are crucial in this context. However, because non-perennial streams are less reliable sources of surface water than perennial ones, they are less-well studied than their perennial counterparts. Writing in Nature, Messager et al.1 provide a much-needed estimate of the total proportion of the world’s stream network, by length, that is non-perennial — and find that most fall into this category.