Future climates are likely to include extreme events, which in turn have great impacts on ecological systems. In this study, we investigated possible effects that could mitigate stem breakage caused by a rare and extreme ice storm in a Chinese subtropical forest across a gradient of forest diversity. We used Bayesian modeling to correct stem breakage for tree size and variance components analysis to quantify the influence of taxon, leaf and wood functional traits, and stand level properties on the probability of stem breakage. We show that the taxon explained four times more variance in individual stem breakage than did stand level properties; trees with higher specific leaf area (SLA) were less susceptible to breakage. However, a large part of the variation at the taxon scale remained unexplained, implying that unmeasured or undefined traits could be used to predict damage caused by ice storms. When aggregated at the plot level, functional diversity and wood density increased after the ice storm. We suggest that for the adaption of forest management to climate change, much can still be learned from looking at functional traits at the taxon level.