Net ecosystem carbon dioxide exchange was measured in two contrasting peatlands in northern Alberta, Canada using the eddy covariance technique during the growing season (May–October). Sphagnum spp. made up approximately 66% of the total LAI (1.52 m2 m−2) at the poor fen and the total N content of Sphagnum capitula was 7.8 mg g−1 at the peak of the growing season. In contrast, the dominant plant species at the extreme-rich fen site, the perennial sedge, Carex lasiocarpa, accounted for approximately 60% of the total LAI (1.09 m2 m−2), and had leaf total N content of 19.3 mg g−1 at peak biomass. In addition, the peak aboveground biomass was higher at the poor fen (230.9 g m−2) than at the extreme-rich fen (157.1 g m−2). Both sites had maximum daily rates of net CO2 uptake of approximately 5 μmol m−2 s−1, and typical nighttime rates of CO2 loss of approximately 2 μmol m−2 s−1 during the peak of the growing season. Calculations of maximum photosynthetic and respiratory capacity were consistently higher at the extreme-rich fen. The poor fen was a net sink for CO2 during 4 of the 6 months (peaking at 44 g C m−2 in July), while only slight net losses of CO2(3 g C m−2) occurred in May and September. In contrast, the extreme-rich fen was calculated to be a significant net sink for CO2 only during 2 months of the growing season (peaking at 30 g C m−2 in August), while significant net losses of CO2 occurred in May (8 g C m−2) and in October (13 g C m−2). The plant species at the poor fen site were active earlier and later in the growing season, while it took longer for C. lasiocarpa to develop leaf tissue, and leaf senescence and reduction in photosynthetic activity occurred earlier in the fall at the extreme-rich fen. When integrated over the 6-month growing season, the poor fen was a net sink (90 g C m−2) that was three times larger than the extreme-rich fen (31 g C m−2). The ratio of cumulative total ecosystem respiration to gross primary production was 0.7 at the poor fen and 0.9 at the extreme-rich fen.