A new vector-based global river network dataset accounting for variable drainage density Academic Article uri icon


  • Spatial variability of river network drainage density (Dd) is a key feature of river systems, yet few existing global hydrography datasets have properly accounted for it. Here, we present a new vector-based global hydrography that reasonably estimates the spatial variability of Dd worldwide. It is built by delineating channels from the latest 90-m Multi-Error-Removed Improved Terrain (MERIT) digital elevation model and flow direction/accumulation. A machine learning approach is developed to estimate Dd based on the global watershed-level climatic, topographic, hydrologic, and geologic conditions, where relationships between hydroclimate factors and Dd are trained using the high-quality National Hydrography Dataset Plus (NHDPlusV2) data. By benchmarking our dataset against HydroSHEDS and several regional hydrography datasets, we show the new river flowlines are in much better agreement with Landsat-derived centerlines, and improved Dd patterns of river networks (totaling ~75 million kilometers in length) are obtained. Basins and estimates of intermittent stream fraction are also delineated to support water resources management. This new dataset (MERIT Hydro-Vector) should enable full global modeling of river system processes at fine spatial resolutions.

altmetric score

  • 5.1

author list (cited authors)

  • Lin, P., Pan, M., Wood, E. F., Yamazaki, D., & Allen, G. H.

citation count

  • 0

publication date

  • January 2021