Pollution-induced community tolerance (PICT) has been proposed as an indicator of the deleterious effects of pollutants on communities in the field. Nematode assemblages were sampled at 10 estuarine sites that ranged from uncontaminated to grossly contaminated with metals. Relative tolerance of these assemblages to Cu was quantified using acute toxicity tests. There were large differences between sites in tolerance to Cu, and copper tolerance was strongly correlated with severity of contamination. Enhanced Cu tolerance occurred at two sites where Cu concentration in sediment was around 180 µg/g but not at a third site, where Cu concentration was 214 µg/g. This implies a threshold of effects on these nematode communities at ~200 µg/g Cu. Comparison with studies of nematode community composition in these same estuaries indicates that PICT is at least as sensitive as the best available ecological monitoring methods. It is, however, faster to carry out and requires much less taxonomic expertise. The PICT appears to be a sensitive indicator of ecological effects of pollution and has considerable promise as a monitoring tool.