Posted on: 6/12/2010 - Updated on: 2/27/2020

Posted by

Jennie Hoffman


CanVis is a visualization program used to "see" potential impacts from coastal development or sea level rise. Users can download background pictures and insert the objects (hotel, house, marina, or other objects) of their choosing. The software is used by municipalities to brainstorm new ideas and policies, undertake project planning, and make presentations. Images created by CanVis can be used to communicate impacts to land managers, planners, and community members and to help managers and planners design strategies in response to potential changes. Users can identify a project and area that they would like to visualize and use CanVis to create comparative images. Users can load a base image (a photo of the area where they would like to see potential future changes) and alter the base photo by adding elements (e.g., additional docks, seawalls, changing sea levels), creating new images that show potential changes. While the tool does not evaluate environmental impacts, it provides a useful communication tool to help stakeholders see potential changes in coastal areas.

Example in use: CanVis has been applied in coastal towns and regions throughout the United States. In the Southeast, the City of Myrtle Beach Planning Commission in South Carolina used CanVis to create comparative visualizations of the impacts of proposed land use changes. For example, CanVis was used to show how wetland buffers could increase overall wetland area, creating recreational birding and fishing opportunities and maintaining other critical services provided by wetland areas. City planners used these visualizations in planning commission meetings, resulting in the city council adding a new public park as a wetland buffer.

Phase of Adaptation: Awareness, Assessment, Planning, Sharing


  • Incorporates docks, buildings, rising waters, and other objects into user photographs to see potential scenarios
  • Allows users to quickly brainstorm "what if" scenarios with this easy-to-use tool
  • Requires minimal computer knowledge and is easy to use


Land managers, natural resource managers, local authorities, planners, community members

Managing Organizations

This organization was established in 2014 when NOAA combined two offices: the Coastal Services Center and the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. The basic missions of the two programs remain intact, but the new organizational structure is bringing value-added services to taxpayers.

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