The sequence architecture and depositional systems of the Paleogene lacustrine rift succession in the Huanghekou Sag, Bohai Bay Basin, NE China were investigated based on seismic profiles, combined with well log and core data. Four second-order or composite sequences and seven third-order sequences were identified. The depositional systems identified in the basin include: fan delta, braid delta, meander fluvial delta, lacustrine and sublacustrine fan. Identification of the slope break was conducted combining the interpretation of faults of each sequence and the identification of syndepositional faults, based on the subdivision of sequence stratigraphy and analysis of depositional systems. Multiple geomorphologic units were recognized in the Paleogene of the Huanghekou Sag including faults, flexures, depositional slope break belts, ditch-valleys and sub-uplifts in the central sag. Using genetic division principles and taking into consideration tectonic features of the Paleogene of the Huanghekou Sag, the study area was divided into the Northern Steep Slope/Fault Slope Break System, the Southern Gentle Slope Break System and T10 Tectonic Slope Break System/T10 Tectonic Belt.
Responses of slope break systems to deposition–erosion are shown as: (1) basin marginal slope break is the boundary of the eroded area and provenance area; (2) ditch-valley formed by different kinds of slope break belts is a good transport bypass for source materials; (3) shape of the slope break belt of the slope break system controls sediments types; (4) the ditch-valley and sub-sag of a slope break system is an unloading area for sediments; and (5) due to their different origins, association characteristics and developing patterns, the Paleogene slope break belt systems in the Huanghekou Sag show different controls on depositional systems. The Northern Fault Slope Break system controls the deposition of a fan delta-lacustrine-subaqueous fan, the Southern Gentle Slope Break system controls the deposition of a fluvial–deltaic–shallow lacustrine and sublacustrine fan, and the T10 Tectonic Slope Break System controls the deposition of shallow lacustrine beach bar sandbodies. The existence of a slope break system is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for studying sandbody development. The formation of effective sandbodies along the slope break depends on the reasonable coupling of effective provenance, necessary association patterns of slope break belt, adequate unloading space and creation of definite accommodation space. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.