Many concepts and theories in ecology are highly debated, because it is often difficult to design decisive tests with sufficient replicates. Examples include biodiversity theories, succession concepts, invasion theories, coexistence theories, and concepts of life history strategies. Microbiological tests of ecological concepts are rapidly accumulating, but have yet to tap into their full potential to complement traditional macroecological theories. Taking the example of microbial communities on leaf surfaces (i.e. the phyllosphere), we show that most explorations of ecological concepts in this field of microbiology focus on autecology and population ecology, while community ecology remains understudied. Notable exceptions are first tests of the island biogeography theory and of biodiversity theories. Here, the phyllosphere provides the unique opportunity to set up replicated experiments, potentially moving fields such as biogeography, macroecology, and landscape ecology beyond theoretical and observational evidence. Future approaches should take advantage of the great range of spatial scales offered by the leaf surface by iteratively linking laboratory experiments with spatial simulation models.