In freshly deposited dredged sediment contaminated with PAHs, we followed the colonization of earthworm species by monthly monitoring over two years. Already five months after deposition the first species, Lumbricus castaneus, appeared, although only temporarily. The first permanent colonizing species was L. rubellus, soon followed by Aporrectodea caliginosa and L. castaneus, and a few months later Eiseniella tetraeda. At the end of the two-year observation period some first few specimen of Allolobophora rosea were present. These earthworm species colonized the deposited sediment apparently in succession. The colonization of each individual species did not show a gradual influx from the bordering dikes at both sides of the deposit, but a fast colonization over the whole width, presumably by surface dispersal, although at low and variable numbers, followed by a gradual increase of population numbers. Modeling the dispersal showed that diffusion was the primary driving factor. Also juvenile earthworms were observed locally in high numbers, so reproduction did occur. Total earthworm numbers in the deposit reached a maximum of 80% of the numbers in the bordering dikes consisting of loamy and clayey soils. Numbers were highest in periods with warm and rainy weather. The appearance of earthworms improved the soil development, stimulated a faster desiccation and aeration of the sediment and may have contributed to the increased degradation of PAHs, especially three- and four-ring PAHs. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.