Carbon dioxide, water vapour, and sensible heat fluxes were measured above and within a spruce dominated forest near the southern ecotone of the boreal forest in Maine, USA. Summer, mid-day carbon dioxide uptake was higher than at other boreal coniferous forests, averaging about – 13 μmol CO2 m–2 s–1. Nocturnal summer ecosystem respiration averaged ≈ 6 μmol CO2 m–2 s–1 at a mean temperature of ≈ 15 °C. Significant ecosystem C uptake began with the thawing of the soil in early April and was abruptly reduced by the first autumn frost in early October. Half-hourly forest CO2 exchange was regulated mostly by the incident photosynthetically active photon flux density (PPFD). In addition to the threshold effects of freezing temperatures, there were seasonal effects on the inferred photosynthetic parameters of the forest canopy. The functional response of this forest to environmental variation was similar to that of other spruce forests. In contrast to reports of carbon loss from northerly boreal forest sites, in 1996 the Howland forest was a strong carbon sink, storing about 2.1 t C ha–1.