We deployed a mesonet of year-round eddy covariance towers in boreal forest stands that last burned in ~1850, ~1930, 1964, 1981, 1989, 1998, and 2003 to understand how CO2 exchange and evapotranspiration change during secondary succession. We used MODIS imagery to establish that the tower sites were representative of the patterns of secondary succession in the region, and Landsat images to show that the individual stands have changed over the last 22 years in ways that match the spatially derived trends. The eddy covariance towers were well matched, with similar equipment and programs, which maximized site-to-site precision and allowed us to operate the network in an efficient manner. The six oldest sites were fully operational for ~90% of the growing season and ~70% of the dormant season from 2001 or 2002 to 2004, with most of the missing data caused by low battery charge or bad signals from the sonic anemometers. The rates of midday growing-season CO2 uptake recovered to preburn levels within 4 years of fire. The seasonality of land-atmosphere exchange and growing-season length changed markedly with stand age. The foliage in the younger stands (1989, 1998, and 2003 burns) was almost entirely deciduous, which resulted in comparatively short growing seasons that lasted ~65 days. In contrast, the older stands (1850, 1930, 1964, and 1981) were mostly evergreen, which resulted in comparatively long growing seasons that lasted ~130 days. The eddy covariance mesonet approach we describe could be used within the context of other ecological experimental designs such as controlled manipulations and gradient comparisons. © 2006 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.