Biodiversity experiments have shown that species loss reduces ecosystem functioning in grassland. To test whether this result can be extrapolated to forests, the main contributors to terrestrial primary productivity, requires large-scale experiments. We manipulated tree species richness by planting more than 150,000 trees in plots with 1 to 16 species. Simulating multiple extinction scenarios, we found that richness strongly increased stand-level productivity. After 8 years, 16-species mixtures had accumulated over twice the amount of carbon found in average monocultures and similar amounts as those of two commercial monocultures. Species richness effects were strongly associated with functional and phylogenetic diversity. A shrub addition treatment reduced tree productivity, but this reduction was smaller at high shrub species richness. Our results encourage multispecies afforestation strategies to restore biodiversity and mitigate climate change.