The LTER Committee on Microbial Ecology – Microbes are essential for the functioning of ecological systems. Vital microbial processes include decomposition and mineralization, many aspects of the nitrogen cycle (e.g., nitrogen fixation, nitrification, denitrification), plant nutrient uptake via mycorrhizal associations, microbial nutrient immobilization, the production of biomass to fuel ecosystem food webs, and the breakdown of toxic materials. While ecologists have developed methods to measure many of the rates of these processes, most have effectively ignored the microbes themselves.