This paper develops a mechanistic ecological model of photosynthesis based on a synthesizing unit with terms for nutrient limitation and wavelength dependent photoinhibition. The model satisfactorily fits standard P–I data with a clear inhibitory impact of excess radiation. Furthermore, the model satisfactorily discriminates between the inhibitory impact of PAR, UVA and UVB. The inhibitory potential of UVA is less than 1 order of magnitude higher than that of PAR, whereas that of UVB is about 2 orders of magnitude higher than PAR. The model can also satisfactorily describe photosynthesis rates as a function of both PAR and environmental nitrate concentrations. At relatively low nutrient levels, the model produces a curve that ascends quickly to a near saturation level; this is a trend often observed in experimental data and described well by a hyperbolic tangent. The results in this paper suggest that nutrient limitation is an overlooked factor in the experimental design for obtaining P–I data. The SU model in this paper is the simplest possible model of photosynthesis with nutrient limitation and photoinhibition that is consistent with Dynamic Energy Budget theory, in which the model can be embedded to obtain dynamic properties.