Tropical forests have long been recognized for their biodiversity and ecosystem services. Despite their importance, tropical forests, and particularly those of central Africa, remain understudied. Until recently, most forest inventories in Central Africa have focused on trees ≥10 cm in diameter, even though several studies have shown that small-diameter tree population may be important to demographic rates and nutrient cycling. To determine the ecological importance of small-diameter trees in central African forests, we used data from a 25-ha permanent plot that we established in the rainforest of Gabon to study the diversity and dynamics of these forests. Within the plot, we censused 175,830 trees ≥1 cm dbh from 54 families, 192 genera, and 345 species. Average tree density was 7,026 trees/ha, basal area 31.64 m2/ha, and above-ground biomass 369.40 Mg/ha. Fabaceae, Ebenaceae and Euphorbiaceae were the most important families by basal area, density and above-ground biomass. Small-diameter trees (1 cm ≥ dbh <10 cm) comprised 93.7% of the total tree population, 16.5% of basal area, and 4.8% of the above-ground biomass. They also had diversity 18% higher at family level, 34% higher at genus level, and 42% higher at species level than trees ≥10 cm dbh. Although the relative contribution of small-diameter trees to biomass was comparable to other forests globally, their contribution to forest density, and diversity was disproportionately higher. The high levels of diversity within small-diameter classes may give these forests high levels of structural resilience to anthropogenic/natural disturbance and a changing climate.