Population-level reproductive success (recruitment) of many fish populations is characterized by high inter-annual variation and related to annual variation in key environmental factors (e.g., climate). When such environmental factors are annually correlated across broad spatial scales, spatially separated populations may display recruitment synchrony (i.e., the Moran effect). We investigated inter-annual (1966–2008) variation in yellow perch (Perca flavescens, Percidae) recruitment using 16 datasets describing populations located in four of the five Laurentian Great Lakes (Erie, Huron, Michigan, and Ontario) and Lake St. Clair. We indexed relative year class strength using catch-curve residuals for each year-class across 2–4 years and compared relative year-class strength among sampling locations. Results indicate that perch recruitment is positively synchronized across the region. In addition, the spatial scale of this synchrony appears to be broader than previous estimates for both yellow perch and freshwater fish in general. To investigate potential factors influencing relative year-class strength, we related year-class strength to regional indices of annual climatic conditions (spring-summer air temperature, winter air temperature, and spring precipitation) using data from 14 weather stations across the Great Lakes region. We found that mean spring-summer temperature is significantly positively related to recruitment success among Great Lakes yellow perch populations.
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