Vertical CO2 profiles (between 0.02 and 14.0 m) were studied in forest canopies of Pinus contorta, Populus tremuloides, and in a riparian forest with Acer negundo and Acer grandidentatum during two consecutive growing seasons. Profiles, measured continuously during 1- to 13-day periods in four to five stands differing in overstorey canopy area index (CAI < 4.5; including leaves, branches and stems), were well stratified, with highest [CO2] just above the forest floor. Canopy [CO2] profiles were influenced by stand structure (CAI, presence of understorey vegetation), and were highly dependent on vegetation type (deciduous and evergreen). A doubling of CAI in Acer spp. and P. tremuloides stands did not show an effect on upper canopy [CO2], when turbulent mixing was high. However, increasing understorey biomass in Acer spp. stands had a profound effect on lower canopy [CO2]. In open stands with a vigorous understorey layer, higher soil respiration rates were offset by increased understorey gas exchange, resulting in [CO2] below those of the convective boundary layer (CBL). Midday depletions up to 20 ppmv below CBL values could be frequently observed in deciduous canopies. In evergreen canopies, [CO2] stayed generally above the CBL background values, [CO2] profiles were more uniform, and gradients were smaller than in deciduous stands with similar CAI. Seasonal changes of canopy [CO2] reflected changes in soil respiration rates as well as plant phenology and gas exchange of both dominant tree and understorey vegetation. Seasonal patterns were less pronounced in evergreen than in deciduous forests.