Attempts to create models of surfaceߚ;atmosphere interactions with greater physical realism have resulted in land surface schemes (LSS) with large numbers of parameters. The hope has been that these parameters can be assigned typical values by inspecting the literature. The potential for using the various observational data sets that are now available to extract plot-scale estimates for the parameters of a complex LSS via advanced parameter estimation methods developed for hydrological models is explored in this paper. Results are reported for two case studies using data sets of typical quality but very different location and climatological regime (ARM-CART and Tucson). The traditional single-criterion methods were found to be of limited value. However, a multicriteria approach was found to be effective in constraining the parameter estimates into physically plausible ranges when observations on at least one appropriate heat flux and one properly selected state variable are available.