Objectively assessing the performance of a model and deriving model parameter values from observations are critical and challenging in landscape to regional modeling. In this paper, we applied a nonlinear inversion technique to calibrate the ecosystem model CENTURY against carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) stock measurements collected from 39 mature tropical forest sites in seven life zones in Costa Rica. Net primary productivity from the Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), C and N stocks in aboveground live biomass, litter, coarse woody debris (CWD), and in soils were used to calibrate the model. To investigate the resolution of available observations on the number of adjustable parameters, inversion was performed using nine setups of adjustable parameters. Statistics including observation sensitivity, parameter correlation coefficient, parameter sensitivity, and parameter confidence limits were used to evaluate the information content of observations, resolution of model parameters, and overall model performance. Results indicated that soil organic carbon content, soil nitrogen content, and total aboveground biomass carbon had the highest information contents, while measurements of carbon in litter and nitrogen in CWD contributed little to the parameter estimation processes. The available information could resolve the values of 2-4 parameters. Adjusting just one parameter resulted in under-fitting and unacceptable model performance, while adjusting five parameters simultaneously led to over-fitting. Results further indicated that the MODIS NPP values were compressed as compared with the spatial variability of net primary production (NPP) values inferred from inverse modeling. Using inverse modeling to infer NPP and other sensitive model parameters from C and N stock observations provides an opportunity to utilize data collected by national to regional forest inventory systems to reduce the uncertainties in the carbon cycle and generate valuable databases to validate and improve MODIS NPP algorithms.