A new mathematical model describing air ion balance was developed and tested. It has improved approximations and includes dry deposition of ions onto the forest canopy. The model leads to an explicit algebraic solution of the balance equations. This allows simple calculation of both the ionization rate and the average charge of aerosol particles from measurements of air ions and aerosol particles, with some parameters of the forest. Charged aerosol particles are distinguished from cluster ions by their size, which exceeds 1.6 nm diameter. The relative uncertainty of the ionization rate is about the same or less than the relative uncertainties of the measurements. The model was tested with specific air ion measurements carried out simultaneously at two heights at the Hyytiala forest station, Finland. Earlier studies have shown a difference in the predictions of the ionization rate in the Hyytiala forest when calculated in two different ways: based on the measurements of the environmental radioactivity and based on the air ion and aerosol measurements. The new model explains the difference as a consequence of neglecting dry deposition of ions in the earlier models. The ionization rate during the 16 h campaign was 5.6 +/- 0.8 cm(-3)s(-1) at the height of 2m and 3.9 +/- 0.2 cm(-3)s(-1) at the height of 14 m, between the tops of the trees. The difference points out the necessity to consider the height variation when the ionization rate is used as a parameter in studies of ion-induced nucleation. Additional results are some estimates of the parameters of air ion balance. The recombination sink of cluster ions on the ions of opposite polarity made up 9 - 13%, the sink on aerosol particles 65 - 69%, and the sink on forest canopy 18 - 26% of the total sink of cluster ions. The average lifetime of cluster ions was about 130 s for positive and about 110 s for negative ions. At the height of 2 m, about 70% of the space charge of air was carried by aerosol particles, and at the height of 14 m, about 84%.