Despite rapid socio-economic development in Kalahari drylands, contemporary research suggests that biodiversity remains important as a component of the complex portfolio of livelihood strategies, as a real and perceived safety net in times of stress, and a key factor of cultural identity. The degree to which the spatially and temporally dynamic nature of biodiversity in drylands influences livelihoods is, however, little studied, particularly in socially complex contemporary rural settlements. Greater understanding in this area is required to allow better-informed design and implementation of rural development, poverty alleviation and conservation initiatives. This is particularly true in the light of predicted increases in environmental dynamism with climate change. An interdisciplinary approach was used in two environmentally and socially distinct dryland settlements in Botswana, to investigate the extent to which the dynamic biodiverse setting influences contemporary rural livelihoods. Results illustrate that biodiversity, particularly its dynamics, is of critical contemporary importance to rural settlement livelihoods, particularly in times of inner settlement scarcity. Entitlements to biodiversity dynamics were, however, bound up by complex settlement-specific social, economic and political factors. Unless such contextual within-settlement dynamics are understood, the relative importance of biodiversity in rural development and poverty alleviation strategies in contemporary Kalahari drylands may be undermined.