Operational monitoring of global terrestrial gross primary production (GPP) and net primary production (NPP) is now underway using imagery from the satellite-borne Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor. Evaluation of MODIS GPP and NPP products will require site-level studies across a range of biomes, with close attention to numerous scaling issues that must be addressed to link ground measurements to the satellite-based carbon flux estimates. Here, we report results of a study aimed at evaluating MODIS NPP/GPP products at six sites varying widely in climate, land use, and vegetation physiognomy. Comparisons were made for twenty-five 1 km2 cells at each site, with 8-day averages for GPP and an annual value for NPP. The validation data layers were made with a combination of ground measurements, relatively high resolution satellite data (Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus at ∼30 m resolution), and process-based modeling. There was strong seasonality in the MODIS GPP at all sites, and mean NPP ranged from 80 g C m−2 yr−1 at an arctic tundra site to 550 g C m−2 yr−1 at a temperate deciduous forest site. There was not a consistent over- or underprediction of NPP across sites relative to the validation estimates. The closest agreements in NPP and GPP were at the temperate deciduous forest, arctic tundra, and boreal forest sites. There was moderate underestimation in the MODIS products at the agricultural field site, and strong overestimation at the desert grassland and at the dry coniferous forest sites. Analyses of specific inputs to the MODIS NPP/GPP algorithm – notably the fraction of photosynthetically active radiation absorbed by the vegetation canopy, the maximum light use efficiency (LUE), and the climate data – revealed the causes of the over- and underestimates. Suggestions for algorithm improvement include selectively altering values for maximum LUE (based on observations at eddy covariance flux towers) and parameters regulating autotrophic respiration.