This paper describes the induction of phenanthrene-catabolism within Phase II mushroom compost resulting from its incubation with (1) phenanthrene, and (2) PAH-contaminated soil. Respirometers measuring mineralization of freshly added C-14-9phenanthere were used to evaluate induction of phenanthrene-catabolism. Where pure phenanthrene (spiked at a concentration of 400 mg kg(wet wt.)(-1)) was used to induce phenanthrene-catabolism in compost. induction was measurable, with maximal mineralization e observed after 7 weeks phenanthrene-compost contact time. Where PAH-contaminated soil was used to induce phenanthrene-catabolism in un-induced compost, induction was observed after 5 weeks soil-compost contact time. Microcosm-scale amelioration of soil contaminated with C-14-phenanthrene (aged in soil for 516 days prior to incubation with compost) indicated that both induced (using pure phenanthrene) and uninduced Phase II mushroom composts were equally able to promote degradation of this soil-associated contaminant. After 111 days incubation time, 42.7+/-6.3% loss of soil-associated phenanthrene was observed in the induced-compost soil mixture, while 36.7+/-2.9% loss of soil-associated phenanthrene was observed in the uninduced-compost soil mixture. These results are notable as they indicate that while pre-induction of phenanthrene-catabolism within compost is possible, it does not significantly increase the extent of degradation when the compost is used to ameliorate phenanthrene-contaminated soil. Thus, compost could be used directly in the amelioration of contaminated land i.e. without pre-induction of catabolism. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.