Effects on earthworms in the contaminated floodplain area the Biesbosch, the Netherlands, were determined at different levels of organization using a combination of field and laboratory tests. The species Lumbricus rubellus, collected from different polluted sites in the Biesbosch, showed reduced values for the biomarker neutral red retention time (NRRT), mainly explained by high metal concentrations in the soil and the resulting high internal copper concentrations in the earthworms. Organic pollutant levels in earthworms were low and did not explain reduced NRRTs. Earthworm abundance and biomass were not correlated with pollutant levels in the soil. Litterbag decomposition and bait-lamina feeding activity, measures of the functional role of earthworms, were not affected by metal pollution and did not show any correlation with metal concentrations in soil or earthworms nor with NRRT. Effects at the biochemical level therefore did not result in a reduced functioning of earthworm communities. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.