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Within historical processes of colonisation, the harms experienced by indigenous peoples have frequently gone hand-in-hand with the loss of abundance and diversity of endemic species. Subsequent endeavours to protect areas of high aesthetic and/or conservation value were commonly framed as wilderness preservation, effacing prior histories of indigenous inhabitation and often entailing the removal of traditional landholders.

Today, at least a quarter of global land area nonetheless remains traditionally owned, managed, used or occupied by indigenous peoples, who are now facing new threats, notably through the expansion of intensive agriculture, extractive industries and climate change. Yet indigenous ecological knowledges, practices, and value systems remain vitally important for current and future biodiversity conservation and restoration initiatives, as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation. Socio-ecological transitions to sustainability therefore necessarily comprise a decolonial dimension. In our exploration of decolonial cultural ecologies, MESH will extend existing research programmes at the University of Cologne, especially in the Global South Studies Center and Centre for Australian Studies, by creating enhanced opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration e.g. between environmental anthropology, environmental law, ecolinguistics, and ecocritical literary studies.