Dating fluvial terraces has long been a challenge for geologists and geomorphologists, because terrace straths and treads are not usually directly dated. In this study, the formation ages of the Yellow River terraces in the Baode area in China were determined by dating fluvial deposits overlying bedrock straths using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating techniques. Seven terraces (from the lowest terrace T1 to the highest terrace T7) in the study area were recognized, and they are characterized by thick fluvial terrace deposits overlaid by loess sediments. Twenty-five samples from nine terrace sections were dated to about 2–200 ka. The OSL ages (120–190 ka) of the fluvial samples from higher terraces (T3–T6) seem to be reliable based on their luminescence properties and stratigraphic consistency, but the geomorphologic and stratigraphic evidence show that these ages should be underestimated, because they are generally similar to those of the samples from the lower terrace (T2). The formation ages of the terrace straths and treads for the T1 terrace were deduced to be about 44 ka and 36 ka, respectively, based on the deposition rates of the fluvial terrace deposits, and the T2 terrace has the same strath and tread formation age of about 135 ka. The incision rate was calculated to be about 0.35 mm/ka for the past 135 ka, and the uplift rate pattern suggests that the Ordos Plateau behaves as a rigid block. Based on our previous investigations on the Yellow River terraces and the results in this study, we consider that the formation ages of terrace straths and treads calculated using deposition rates of terrace fluvial sediments can overcome problems associated with age underestimation or overestimation of strath or fill terraces based on the single age of one fluvial terrace sample. The implication is that, for accurate dating of terrace formation, terrace sections should be systematically sampled and dated.
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