In industrialized countries river floodplains can be strongly polluted with heavy metals. Published studies on effects of heavy metal pollution on soil invertebrates in floodplains, however, are inconclusive. This is unexpected since studies in other less dynamic environments reported clear effects at even lower levels of pollution. Flooding induces extra variation in invertebrate biomass and abundance which may reduce the probability to detect heavy metal effects. In this paper we combine reported data from studies on river floodplains in The Netherlands and Belgium and statistically analyze the effect of heavy metals on species composition, biomass, density and individual weight of earthworms. Interaction effects of heavy metal stress and flooding are also considered. The results suggest clear effects of zinc and copper on all variables and interaction of heavy metals and flooding for individual weight. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.