Strahler number

Diagram showing the Strahler stream order

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

These numbers were first developed in hydrology, as a way of measuring the complexity of rivers and streams, 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. The same numbers 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.

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