Tropical montane rivers (TMR) are born in tropical mountains, descend through montane forests, and feed major rivers, floodplains, and oceans. They are characterized by rapid temperature clines and varied flow disturbance regimes, both of which promote habitat heterogeneity, high biological diversity and endemism, and distinct organisms’ life-history adaptations. Production, transport, and processing of sediments, nutrients, and carbon are key ecosystem processes connecting high-elevation streams with lowland floodplains, in turn influencing soil fertility and biotic productivity downstream. TMR provide key ecosystem services to hundreds of millions of people in tropical nations. In light of existing human-induced disturbances, including climate change, TMR can be used as natural model systems to examine the effects of rapid changes in abiotic drivers and their influence on biodiversity and ecosystem function.