INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPH We explored the microbial contributions to decomposition using a sophisticated approach to DNA Stable Isotope Probing (SIP). Our experiment evaluated the dynamics and ecological characteristics of functionally defined microbial groups that metabolize labile and structural C in soils. We added to soil a complex amendment representing plant derived organic matter substituted with either ¹³C-xylose or ¹³C-cellulose to represent labile and structural C pools derived from abundant components of plant biomass. We found evidence for ¹³C-incorporation into DNA from ¹³C-xylose and ¹³C-cellulose in 49 and 63 operational taxonomic units (OTUs), respectively. The types of microorganisms that assimilated ¹³C in the ¹³C-xylose treatment changed over time being predominantly _Firmicutes_ at day 1 followed by _Bacteroidetes_ at day 3 and then _Actinobacteria_ at day 7. These ¹³C-labeling dynamics suggest labile C traveled through different trophic levels. In contrast, microorganisms generally metabolized cellulose-C after 14 days and did not change to the same extent in phylogenetic composition over time. Microorganisms that metabolized cellulose-C belonged to poorly characterized but cosmopolitan soil lineages including _Verrucomicrobia_, _Chloroflexi_ and _Planctomycetes_.