Local sociocultural processes including community perceptions and actions represent the most visible social impacts of various economic and environmental changes. Comparative community analysis has been used to examine diverse community perspectives on a variety of socioeconomic and environmental issues. However, as the temporal dimension of community processes remains understudied, relatively little is known regarding how such community variations change over time. This study draws on longitudinal survey data from six communities on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska to explore temporal shifts in community differences in perceptions and activeness in response to forest disturbance associated with an extensive spruce bark beetle outbreak. The surveys were implemented in two phases over a 4-year study period. Results show that while community perceptions on the bark beetle condition waned and coalesced in some ways, significant differences remained or emerged with respect to other facets of local reactions. These shifting variances in community dimensions of the beetle disturbance were related to community positions along the beetle outbreak timeline and general community socioeconomic and biophysical situations (community context). The analysis also revealed community differences and contexts held an even more important role in predicting local responses to beetles in the re-survey. Taken together, findings from this research contribute a better understanding of the persistence and change in community variability as well as the continuity of community contextual effects.
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