The United Nations have set 22 May as the International Day for Biological Diversity. To emphasise the importance of our environment as a basis of life for human wellbeing, 2010 was declared the International Year of Biodiversity, while 2011 was declared the Year of Forests. The Irsee Swabian Educational Centre is taking up this concept and in 2010 it had a new framework plan created for the entire outdoor facility of Irsee Monastery on the basis of the historical space structure and the current use standards. The result of this is both a forward-looking space concept and a concrete measure plan for the promotion of biological diversity on our site. On this basis, proposals for a new space concept are being developed for the individual habitats and ecological complexes (shrub and tree populations, paths and open spaces, meadows and woods as well as water bodies). The following measures have already been introduced:
1. Natural rejuvenation of the abbey forest
The Irsee Swabian Educational Centre promotes forestry that conforms to nature in the abbey forest (3.6 ha). For instance, the historic “ash break” has already been freed from non-native fig trees. On the entire forest surface, space and light is being successively created for the regrowing young ashes, sycamores, alders und beeches. This leads to a diverse, mixed population from the naturally occurring local tree species. The Educational Centre is supported here by the Kaufbeuren Bureau for Food, Agriculture and Forestry as well as the Kaufbeuren Forestry Community.
2. Meadow with scattered fruit trees
In 1994, the East Allgäu District Association for Gardening and Land Cultivation laid out a meadow with scattered fruit trees, 1.5 ha in size, on the former “gentlemen’s meadow” of Irsee Monastery as an educational fruit garden. Sixty fruit trees were planted and established varieties of apples, pears, plums and cherries for the East Allgäu were selected. The aim is to preserve tried-and-tested fruit varieties, to convey the ecological value of a meadow with scattered fruit trees and to offer practical courses in tree care, fruit-tree pruning und fruit-tree refining. The District Association for Gardening and Land Cultivation is the contact.
The approximately thirty year-old beehouse in the abbey forest was reactivated in the summer of 2010 and taken on by the Imker-Schule Schwaben school. Information about the bees in the abbey forest is issued by the State Specialist Advisor on Bee Breeding in the administrative district of Swabia.
4. Patient graveyard
After the Secularisation, in 1849, Swabia’s first stationary psychiatric clinic, the so-called “district asylum”, was set up in the rooms of Irsee Monastery. After the construction of today’s district hospital in Kaufbeuren in 1876, Irsee continued to be used as a “department for the chronically ill” until 1972. During the period of National Socialism, patients were killed at the “Kaufbeuren/Irsee Curative and Nursing Institute” by being placed in central euthanasia institutions, by means of undernutrition or by means of medicine; the so-called “euthanasia graveyard” was set up behind the minster. The complex, which was used as a patient graveyard until the dissolution of the Irsee department, became an important memorial site for the victims of the “euthanasia” in Swabia in 1981 when it was placed under a preservation order. In 2010, the garden of the graveyard was overhauled in accordance with historical plans and photographs. Today, the site emits peace and dignity in its form as a forest graveyard and preserves an honouring memorial for the victims.
5. Abbey pond
The abbey pond, which is designed as a fire protection or sedimentation pond and was equipped with a small turbine for electricity generation during the time of the “Curative and Nursing Institute”, is managed by the Swabian Fish Farm Salgen and is occupied by local fish species. Information is issued by the Specialist Consultancy for Fishery, an institution of the district of Swabia. In addition, a sun deck is available to our guests. In 2015, a picturesque place of retreat from the hectic everyday working life came into being here, one the one hand, and on the other hand another space on the abbey site where peace and creativity meet. In addition to enjoying an enchanting nature experience, one can marvel at the sculpture “Nereus” (a sea god of Greek mythology) of the Irsee artist Peter R. Müller.
Most bats live “under one roof” with man. For instance, in the attic of the church and of the former convent building are summer accommodations of a large species of bat (mouse-eared or serotine bat). The preservation of these existing quarters was taken into consideration in the construction measures for the heat insulation of the top floor roof in the main building.
7. Nature trail
The objective of the spatial planning-based mapping of the outdoor facilities of the Irsee Swabian Educational Centre is to create a nature trail that is to combine the various habitats and sites and illustrate to the visitor their historical and ecological significance.