Abstract An industrial crane was installed in the Daintree lowland rainforest in 1998 to provide a new means of accessing the canopy. Approximately 0.95 ha of forest, including 680 trees of 82 species with a diameter at breast height of greater than 10 cm, are accessible using the crane. The site was hit by a Category 3 Cyclone in 1999 and has shown a remarkable rate of recovery. The crane has been used for a very wide range of research including tree physiology and ecology, interactions with vertebrate and invertebrate biodiversity and studies of carbon and water fluxes. Results from studies on this crane and 11 other cranes around the world are changing views of the importance of the rainforest canopy.