Drought duration and intensity are expected to increase with global climate change. How changes in water availability and temperature affect the combined plant-soil-microorganism response remains uncertain. Little is known about biological responses to extreme climate events, especially with relation to carbon cycling. Forest Service scientists and their partners from the Leibniz Center for Agricultural Landscape Research in Germany simulated extreme environmental stress on a forest understory to learn how plants and soil microorganisms will respond under climate change. Overall, microbial communities endured a high level of drought and temperature stress before significantly changing. Furthermore, plant carbon delivered belowground was critical for some phyla and these microbes received plant carbon even under stress. The study suggests that many of the shifts in the microbial communities that we might expect from extreme environmental stress will result from the plant-soil-microbial dynamics rather than from direct effects of drought and heat on soil microbes alone. Results from studies like this one are important as they contribute information that lead better carbon stewardship of our nation’s forests and wildlands.