Intense hurricanes disturb many tropical forests, but the key processes driving post-hurricane forest changes are not fully understood. In Puerto Rico, Forest Service scientists collaborated with researchers from the Luquillo Long-Term Ecological Research Program to simulate hurricane effects in the Luquillo Experimental Forest and determine the mechanisms of forest change associated with canopy openness (via loss of branches) and organic matter (debris) addition. By studying in isolation the individual effects of storm damage, the scientists were able to observe how changes in microclimate cascaded down through the food web. They concluded that short-term responses of biota and ecosystem processes to cyclonic storms appear to be largely driven by canopy opening and the subsequent shifts in light and moisture, with added debris playing a relatively smaller role through the supplement of carbon and nutrients. This research highlights the dynamic nature of tropical forest ecosystems, and helps inform predictions of how plant, animal, and fungal species might respond to anticipated increases in the frequency of major hurricanes.