Adaptation Design Tool

Posted on: 10/22/2018 - Updated on: 2/27/2020

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Reef Resilienc…


The Adaptation Design Tool helps natural resource managers incorporate climate-smart design into their management activities by considering the effects of climate change on ecosystem stressors and implications for effective management. Developed as a collaboration of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force with The Nature Conservancy to support coral reef management, the tool is also fully transferable and has been used for other natural resource systems, as well. The tool assists users through the process of incorporating climate change adaptation into management plans using existing planned actions as a starting point. It also guides development of additional climate-smart strategies as needed given emerging climate vulnerabilities. The tool was incorporated into an online self-paced course that takes about 2 hours to complete and includes the following lessons:

Principles of Climate-Smart Planning (20 minutes) – key concepts of Climate-Smart Conservation, including why and how to brainstorm and design management actions to account for the effects of climate change.

Introduction to the Adaptation Design Tool (20 minutes) – overview of the Adaptation Design Tool, how it works, and best practices for using it effectively.

Applying Climate-Smart Design Considerations to Existing Conservation & Management Actions (45 minutes) – demonstration of Activity 1 of the Adaptation Design Tool, which applies climate-smart design considerations to (1) identify climate change impacts on the effectiveness of your management actions and (2) consider what changes should be made to the actions based on those impacts.

Expanding the List of Adaptation Options & Course Conclusion (30 minutes) – demonstration of Activity 2 of the Adaptation Design Tool, which identifies gaps in your existing plan, helps you brainstorm new actions to fill those gaps, and concludes with next steps on how the tool results can be used to inform other steps of the Climate-Smart Conservation Cycle.

Both the online course and the user guide provide fillable worksheets, instructions, and real-world examples as well as information on key considerations, resources and lessons learned to support managers in using the tool.

Contributors include:



Adaptation Design Tool User Guide (2017):

Environmental Management article on principles of corals & climate adaptation planning (2016):

Environmental Management article on the Adaptation Design Tool and lessons learned (2018):

Chesapeake Bay Program report (2018):


Cherie Wagner, Jordan West
206-436-6235, 202-564-1555

Managing Organizations

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.


Taxonomic Focus
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy

Related External Links

Adaptation Design Tool User Guide