Current and maximally induced nitrate reductase activity (NRA), total-N, nitrate, K, P, Ca, Mg, Mo and sucrose in leaves ofDeschampsia flexuosa was measured three times during the vegetation period in forests along a deposition gradient (150 km) in south Sweden, in north Sweden where the nitrogen deposition is considerably lower, and at heavily N-fertilized plots. In addition, the interaction between nitrogen nutrition and light was studied along transects from clearings into forest in both south and north Sweden. Plants from sites with high nitrogen deposition had elevated current NRA compared to plants from less polluted sites, indicating high levels of available soil nitrate at the former. Current NRA and total N concentration in grass from sites with high deposition resembled those found at heavily N-fertilized plots. Under such circumstances, the ratio current NRA: maximally induced NRA as well as the concentration of nitrate was high, while the concentration of sucrose was low. This suggests that the grass at these sites was already utilizing a large portion of its capacity to assimilate nitrate. Light was found to play an important role in the assimilation of nitrate; leaf concentration of sucrose was found to be negatively correlated with both nitrate and total N. Consequently, grass growing under dense canopies in south Sweden is not able to dilute N by increasing growth. The diminished capacity of the grass to assimilate nitrate will increase leaching losses of N from forests approaching N saturation.