Global terrestrial models currently predict that the Amazon rainforest will continue to act as a carbon sink in the future, primarily owing to the rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration. Soil phosphorus impoverishment in parts of the Amazon basin largely controls its functioning, but the role of phosphorus availability has not been considered in global model ensembles—for example, during the Fifth Climate Model Intercomparison Project. Here we simulate the planned free-air CO2 enrichment experiment AmazonFACE with an ensemble of 14 terrestrial ecosystem models. We show that phosphorus availability reduces the projected CO2-induced biomass carbon growth by about 50% to 79 ± 63 g C m−2 yr−1 over 15 years compared to estimates from carbon and carbon–nitrogen models. Our results suggest that the resilience of the region to climate change may be much less than previously assumed. Variation in the biomass carbon response among the phosphorus-enabled models is considerable, ranging from 5 to 140 g C m−2 yr−1, owing to the contrasting plant phosphorus use and acquisition strategies considered among the models. The Amazon forest response thus depends on the interactions and relative contributions of the phosphorus acquisition and use strategies across individuals, and to what extent these processes can be upregulated under elevated CO2.