The causative factors leading to the Reynolds shear stress distribution in turbulent channel flow are analysed via a backward particle path analysis. It is found that the classical displacement transport mechanism, by which changes in the mean velocity field over a mixing time correlate with the wall-normal velocity, is the dominant source of Reynolds shear stress. Approximately 20 % of channel flow at any given time contains fluid motions that contribute to displacement transport. Much rarer events provide a small but non-negligible contribution to the Reynolds shear stress due to fluid particle accelerations and long-lived correlations deriving from structural features of the near-wall flow. The Reynolds shear stress in channel flow is shown to be a non-local phenomenon that is not conducive to description via a local model and particularly one depending directly on the local mean velocity gradient.
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