We examined the spatial scale of recruitment variability for disparate cisco (Coregonus artedi) populations in the Great Lakes (n = 8) and Minnesota inland lakes (n = 4). We found that the scale of synchrony was approximately 400 km when all available data were utilized; much greater than the 50-km scale suggested for freshwater fish populations in an earlier global analysis. The presence of recruitment synchrony between Great Lakes and inland lake cisco populations supports the hypothesis that synchronicity is driven by climate and not dispersal. We also found synchrony in larval densities among three Lake Superior populations separated by 25–275 km, which further supports the hypothesis that broad-scale climatic factors are the cause of spatial synchrony. Among several candidate climate variables measured during the period of larval cisco emergence, maximum wind speeds exhibited the most similar spatial scale of synchrony to that observed for cisco. Other factors, such as average water temperatures, exhibited synchrony on broader spatial scales, which suggests they could also be contributing to recruitment synchrony. Our results provide evidence that abiotic factors can induce synchronous patterns of recruitment for populations of cisco inhabiting waters across a broad geographic range, and show that broad-scale synchrony of recruitment can occur in freshwater fish populations as well as those from marine systems.
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