Assumptions of steady-state conditions in biogeochemical modelling are often invoked because knowledge on the development status of the modelling domain is generally unavailable. Here, we investigate the role of vegetation pool sizes on nonequilibrium conditions through model-data integration approaches for a set of sites using eddy covariance CO2 flux data. The study is based on the Carnegie-Ames-Stanford Approach (CASA) model, modified (CASAG) in order to evaluate the sensitivity of simulated net ecosystem production (NEP) fluxes to vegetation pool sizes. The experimental design is based on the inverse model optimization of different parameter vectors performed at the measurement site level. Each parameter vector prescribes different simulation dynamics that embody different model structural assumptions concerning (non)steady-state conditions in vegetation and soil carbon pools. We further explore the potential of assimilating biometric constraints through the cost function for sites where in situ information on aboveground biomass or wood pools is available. The integration of biometric data yields marked improvements in the simulation of vegetation C pools compared to single constraints with eddy flux data. Overall, it is necessary to relax both vegetation and soil carbon pools for consistency with the observed data streams. Multiple constraints approaches also leads to variable model performance among the different experimental setups and model structures. We identify and assess the limitations of various model structures and the role of multiple constraints approaches for tackling issues of equifinality. These studies emphasize the need for establishing consistent data sets of fluxes and biometric data for successful model-data fusion. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.