Measurements of net ecosystem CO2 exchange by eddy correlation, incident photosynthetically active photon flux density (PPFD), soil temperature, air temperature, and air humidity were made in a black spruce (Picea mariana) boreal woodland near Schefferville, Quebec, Canada, from June through August 1990. Nighttime respiration was between 0.5 and 1.5 kg C ha−1 h−1, increasing with temperature. Net uptake of carbon during the day peaked at 3 kg C ha−1 h−1, and the daily net uptake over the experiment was 12 kg C ha−1 day−1. Photosynthesis dropped substantially at leaf-to-air vapor pressure deficit (VPD) greater than 7 mb, presumably as a result of stomatal closure. The response of ecosystem photosynthesis to incident PPFD was markedly non-linear, with an abrupt saturation at 600 μmol m−2 s−1. This sharp saturation reflected the geometry of the spruce canopy (isolated conical crowns), the frequently overcast conditions, and an increase in VPD coincident with high radiation. The ecosystem light-use efficiency increased markedly during overcast periods as a result of a more even distribution of light across the forest surface. A mechanistic model of forest photosynthesis, parameterized with observations of leaf density and nitrogen content from a nearby stand, provided accurate predictions of forest photosynthesis. The observations and model results indicated that ecosystem carbon balance at the site is highly sensitive to temperature, and relatively insensitive to cloudiness.