A geography expert says Newfoundland is slowly sinking in the Atlantic Ocean, posing a risk to residents living close to the province’s coastline.

Norm Catto, an expert in coastline erosion at Memorial University, estimates certain parts of the island province are sinking at a rate of 3.5 millimetres per year.

Catto told CTV News Channel on Sunday that the erosion does not pose an immediate risk, but said planners must be mindful of the rising coastline.

“It is a problem in the long term and it’s certainly a problem for communities that are along the coast and where we’re looking for the infrastructure to last for some time,” he said.

Areas in the south and southeast ends of the island, including St. John’s, are seeing a higher rate of erosion, while areas in Newfoundland’s north are seeing a slower submergence at one millimetre per year.

However, Catto pointed out that the province’s erosion is not a new development.

“This is a process that’s been ongoing for the past 6,000 to 8,000 years, depending on where you are around the island,” he said.

Catto uses carbon dating on dead tree stumps located around Newfoundland’s coast to measure the rate of submergence.

He said carbon dating helps researchers estimate the approximate time when salt water reached a tree that at one point was on land, and killed its roots.

Some of the stumps that have been tested date back to 340 AD.

Catto said the erosion can affect residents along the coastline during Newfoundland’s stormy season.

“We’re much more concerned about storm surges that will result in hurricanes and things of that sort.”

He added that throughout Atlantic Canada, major cities are well aware of the erosion.

“Engineering for major projects in St. John’s or Halifax does take this into account.”