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Assessing placement bias of the global river gauge network

Corey A. Krabbenhoft (), George H. Allen, Peirong Lin, Sarah E. Godsey, Daniel C. Allen, Ryan M. Burrows, Amanda G. DelVecchia, Ken M. Fritz, Margaret Shanafield, Amy J. Burgin, Margaret A. Zimmer, Thibault Datry, Walter K. Dodds, C. Nathan Jones, Meryl C. Mims, Catherin Franklin, John C. Hammond, Sam Zipper, Adam S. Ward, Katie H. Costigan, Hylke E. Beck and Julian D. Olden
Additional contact information
Corey A. Krabbenhoft: University at Buffalo
George H. Allen: Texas A&M University
Peirong Lin: Peking University
Sarah E. Godsey: Idaho State University
Daniel C. Allen: The Pennsylvania State University
Ryan M. Burrows: The University of Melbourne
Amanda G. DelVecchia: Duke University
Ken M. Fritz: US Environmental Protection Agency
Margaret Shanafield: Flinders University
Amy J. Burgin: University of Kansas
Margaret A. Zimmer: University of California
Thibault Datry: INRAE, UR Riverly, Centre Lyon-Grenoble Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Walter K. Dodds: Kansas State University
C. Nathan Jones: University of Alabama
Meryl C. Mims: Virginia Tech
Catherin Franklin: Texas A&M University
John C. Hammond: US Geological Survey MD-DE-DC Water Science Center
Sam Zipper: University of Kansas
Adam S. Ward: Indiana University
Katie H. Costigan: University of Alabama
Hylke E. Beck: Joint Research Centre of the European Commission
Julian D. Olden: University of Washington

Nature Sustainability, 2022, vol. 5, issue 7, 586-592

Abstract: Abstract Knowing where and when rivers flow is paramount to managing freshwater ecosystems. Yet stream gauging stations are distributed sparsely across rivers globally and may not capture the diversity of fluvial network properties and anthropogenic influences. Here we evaluate the placement bias of a global stream gauge dataset on its representation of socioecological, hydrologic, climatic and physiographic diversity of rivers. We find that gauges are located disproportionally in large, perennial rivers draining more human-occupied watersheds. Gauges are sparsely distributed in protected areas and rivers characterized by non-perennial flow regimes, both of which are critical to freshwater conservation and water security concerns. Disparities between the geography of the global gauging network and the broad diversity of streams and rivers weakens our ability to understand critical hydrologic processes and make informed water-management and policy decisions. Our findings underscore the need to address current gauge placement biases by investing in and prioritizing the installation of new gauging stations, embracing alternative water-monitoring strategies, advancing innovation in hydrologic modelling, and increasing accessibility of local and regional gauging data to support human responses to water challenges, both today and in the future.

Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1038/s41893-022-00873-0

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