Soil formation is the result of a complex network of biological as well as chemical and physical processes. The role of soil microbes is of high interest, since they are responsible for most biological transformations and drive the development of stable and labile pools of carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and other nutrients, which facilitate the subsequent establishment of plant communities. Forefields of receding glaciers provide unique chronosequences of different soil development stages and are ideal ecosystems to study the interaction of bacteria, fungi and archaea with their abiotic environment. In this review we give insights into the role of microbes for soil development. The results presented are based on studies performed within the Collaborative Research Program DFG SFB/TRR 38 (<a href="http://www.tu-cottbus.de/ecosystem"_target="blank">http://www.tu-cottbus.de/ecosystem</a> ) and are supplemented by data from other studies. The review focusses on the microbiology of major steps of soil formation. Special attention is given to the development of nutrient cycles on the formation of biological soil crusts (BSCs) and on the establishment of plant-microbe interactions.