This study relates the performance of an optimized one-dimensional ecosystem model to observations at three sites in the North Atlantic Ocean: the Bermuda Atlantic Time Series Study (BATS, 31N 64W), the location of the North Atlantic Bloom Experiment (NABE, 47N 20W), and Ocean Weather Ship INDIA (OWS-INDIA, 59N 19W). The ecosystem model is based on nitrogen and resolves dissolved inorganic nitrogen (N), phytoplankton (P), zooplankton (Z) and detritus (D), therefore called the NPZD-model. Physical forcing, such as temperature and eddy diffusivities are taken from an eddy-permitting general circulation model of the North Atlantic Ocean, covering a period from 1989 through 1993. When an optimized parameter set is applied, the recycling of organic nitrogen becomes significantly enhanced, compared to previously published results of the NPZD model. The optimized model yields improved estimates of the annual ratio of regenerated to total primary production (f-ratio). The annual f-ratios are 0.09, 0.31, and 0.42 for the locations of BATS, NABE, and OWS-INDIA, respectively. Nevertheless, three major model deficiencies are identified. Most conspicuous are systematic discrepancies between measured 14C-fixation rates and modeled primary production under nutrient depleted conditions. This error is primarily attributed to the assumption of a constant carbon-to-nitrogen ratio for nutrient acquisition. Secondly, the initial period of the modeled phytoplankton blooms is hardly tracked by the model. That particular model deficiency becomes most apparent at the OWS-INDIA site. The interplay between algal growth and short-term alterations in stratification and mixing is believed to be insufficiently resolved by the physical model. Eventually, the model's representation of the vertical nitrogen export appears to be too simple in order to match, at the same time, remineralization within the upper 300 meters and the biomass export to greater depths.