Aquatic oligochaetes, comprising a large number of species showing various degrees of resistance to chemical pollution, are recognized as valuable bioindicators of sediments’ quality. In the Geneva area (Switzerland), oligochaete tools were previously tested for assessing the biological quality of stream sediments, and effect thresholds of combined metals (quotients) in sediments were defined. The aims of the present study were to update this previous work with new data acquired in different cantons of Switzerland and to establish effect thresholds on oligochaete communities for individual metals and for combined metals. The oligochaete metrics “Oligochaete index of sediment bioindication (IOBS)”, “oligochaete density” and “percentage of tubificids without hair setae” proved pertinent for assessing the effects of metals and organic matter in sediments. We established a threshold effect level (TELoligo
) and probable effect level (PELoligo
) for eight metals in sediments (Cr, Ni, Zn, Cu, Pb, Cd, Hg and As) as well as a probable effect level for these metals combined (mPELoligo
-Q). These thresholds could be used directly to screen for alteration of in situ communities restricted to sediments and/or for establishing sediment quality standards based on a combination of different biological and ecotoxicological tools.
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