Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-polluted dredged peat sediments and earthworms: a mutual interference

H.J.P. Eijsackers, S. de Jonge, B. Muijs, D. Slijkerman, C.A.M. van Gestel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


In lowland areas of the Netherlands, any peat sediments will gradually become enriched with anthropogenically derived Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons. Due to Dutch policy standards these (anaerobic) sediments are not allowed to be dredged and placed onto land. Under aerobic conditions, however, biodegradation of PAH is greatly enhanced. This degradation is further stimulated by colonisation of the sediments by earthworms. Laboratory experiments show that although earthworms do not avoid PAH-contaminated sediment, their burrowing-activity is reduced. Furthermore, these sediments have no significant ecotoxicological impacts on earthworms. Experimental introduction of earthworms into PAH-contaminated OECD-soil will result in a decrease in overall PAH content. In field surveys no significant differences in earthworm numbers between locations with fresh and old sediment could be found. It is concluded that dredging of PAH-contaminated sediment poses a very limited environmental threat, and that puttingthese sediments on land will improve PAH-biodegradation, partly through the colonisation by and activities of earthworms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-50
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • earthworms
  • polycyclic hydrocarbons
  • soil pollution
  • dredgings
  • sediment
  • netherlands
  • ecotoxicology
  • noord-holland

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