Community Resilience in Southern Appalachia: A Theoretical Framework and Three Case Studies

Jordan W. Smith, Roger L. Moore, Dorothy H. Anderson, Christos Siderelis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


A fundamental assumption in nearly all research on social adaptation to environmental change is that there is a concomitant and inverse relationship between human communities' dependence upon particular natural resources affected by environmental change and those communities or societies' resilience to disturbances. However, recent theoretical and empirical developments suggest resilience is a dynamic social process determined, in part, by the ability of communities to act collectively and solve common problems. The interactional approach to community is utilized to develop a framework whereby various patterns of social interaction define the process of social resilience. Data come from multiple mixed methods case studies of forest dependent communities within Southern Appalachia. The findings reveal varied processes of social resilience can occur in communities with similar levels of resource dependence; a community's composition of internal social ties and their cross-scale linkages to external agencies and organizations define these processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)341-353
Number of pages13
JournalHuman Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This research was supported by a doctoral dissertation improvement grant from the National Science Foundation (Award No. 1030395) and a Hoffmann Fellowship from the College of Natural Resources at North Carolina State University. The authors would like to thank Dr. Ed Kick, Dr. Hugh Devine, and Hollie Smith for their comments and suggestions.

Funding Information:
Other interviewees described their community’s connection to external sources of information and finances as a key factor enabling their community to adapt to changing environmental conditions. For example, one interviewee had been involved in the development of a county-wide farmland protection and agricultural development plan and expressed the benefits of cross-scale linkages by noting: That plan was funded by a state-wide trust fund [the North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund]. The fund worked through the local ag[ricultural] extension office here in town to enable us to use the expertise of university scientists and researchers to develop a plan for more sustainable farming in the area. This is Franklin, I mean we only have like ten-thousand people living here. Having that kind of resource [access to external] expertise is a big help for us.


  • Adaptation
  • Resource dependence
  • Social capital


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