Manganese (Mn) is a biologically important and redox-active metal that may exert a poorly recognized control on carbon (C) cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. Manganese influences ecosystem C dynamics by mediating biochemical pathways that include photosynthesis, serving as a reactive intermediate in the breakdown of organic molecules, and binding and/or oxidizing organic molecules through organo-mineral associations. However, the potential for Mn to influence ecosystem C storage remains unresolved. Although substantial research has demonstrated the ability of Fe- and Al-oxides to stabilize organic matter, there is a scarcity of similar information regarding Mn-oxides. Furthermore, Mn-mediated reactions regulate important litter decomposition pathways, but these processes are poorly constrained across diverse ecosystems. Here, we discuss the ecological roles of Mn in terrestrial environments and synthesize existing knowledge on the multiple pathways by which biogeochemical Mn and C cycling intersect. We demonstrate that Mn has a high potential to degrade organic molecules through abiotic and microbially mediated oxidation and to stabilize organic molecules, at least temporarily, through organo-mineral associations. We outline research priorities needed to advance understanding of Mn–C interactions, highlighting knowledge gaps that may address key uncertainties in soil C predictions.