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The bark is the outermost defense of trees against microbial attack, largely thanks to toxicity and prevalence of extractive compounds. Nevertheless, bark decomposes in nature, though by which species and mechanisms remains unknown. Here, we have followed the development of microbial enrichments growing on spruce bark over six months, by monitoring both chemical changes in the material and performing community and metagenomic analyses. Carbohydrate metabolism was unexpectedly limited, and instead a key activity was metabolism of extractives. Resin acid degradation was principally linked to community diversification with specific bacteria revealed to dominate the process. Metagenome-guided isolation facilitated the recovery of the dominant enrichment strain in pure culture, which represents a new species ( Pseudomonas abieticivorans sp. nov.), that can grow on resin acids as a sole carbon source. Our results illuminate key stages in degradation of an abundant renewable resource, and how defensive extractive compounds have major roles in shaping microbiomes.