Concern is growing worldwide over the negative outcomes of rural abandonment. Yet, problematisation of this phenomenon remains limited by insufficient explanatory frameworks and lack of empirical evidence from the conditions which precede, underlie and succeed it. Accordingly, this paper presents a case from Turkey, where significant rural abandonment is locally attributed to the ravages of multiple introduced pathogens in European chestnut (Castanea sativa) populations, and where our previous investigation has verified that traditional livelihood practices mitigate damage severity at the levels of trees, plots and landscapes. In order to better understand individual stakeholder motivations for remaining acting members of chestnut landscapes in the face of such serious challenges, we conducted 142 extended ethnographic and narrative interviews with chestnut-utilising participants across Turkey's highly diverse human and physical geography. Our results show how the struggle to remain as acting landscape members requires community livelihood adaptation, drawing on institutional memory, innovative learning and social connectedness.