Abstract. Terrestrial ecosystem risk assessment remains in its infancy by comparison with the aquatic discipline, yet it is advancing quickly in response to increasing concerns surrounding soil quality and the sustainable use of soil. Several international frameworks have been developed during the last decade to aid decision-makers as the need for scientifically derived tools for determining ecological risk from land contamination has been recognized. From the regulatory viewpoint, the priority is establishing what to protect in order to prevent ecological harm. This is a complex issue requiring clear objectives in a risk assessment context. The most important factor in assessing ecological harm is whether or not ecosystem function is altered as a result of land contamination and, if it is, judging the significance. A consensus is developing that ecological risk assessment should aim to protect populations rather than individuals. This paper critically reviews recent developments in risk assessment for terrestrial ecosystems and land contamination in the UK, with emphasis on deriving a measure of ecological harm to assess ecosystem function. We seek to further justify the use of earthworms as a favoured indicator species for protecting ecological function. Guidance on how to measure harm in relation to ecological function is, however, still lacking
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