The important role of earthworms in the biomagnification of heavy metals in terrestrial ecosystems is widely recognised. Differences in earthworm biomass between sites is mostly not accounted for in ecological risk assessment. These differences may be large depending on soil properties and pollution status. A survey of earthworm biomass and colonisation rate was carried out on dredged sediment-derived soils (DSDS). Results were compared with observations for the surrounding alluvial plains. Mainly grain size distribution and time since disposal determined earthworm biomass on DSDS, while soil pollution status of the DSDS was of lesser importance. Highest earthworm biomass was observed on sandy loam DSDS disposed at least 40 years ago. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.