Rollinson was delivering the annual Forestry Lecture in Sustainability last week at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
He said the pressures on the earth's resources, including land, were going to be immense as the world's population is forecast to grow to eight billion by 2025. At the same time, the continuing drift of people to towns and cities meant they were losing their contact with forests and their understanding of how crucial they are to life.
"Forest cover in many parts of the world continues to fall as forests are destroyed to make way for other land uses, and we urgently need to halt this deforestation," said Rollinson.
"However, with the increasing shift of populations to living in cities, we are witnessing a greater 'disconnect' between people and forests."
He added it was necessary to engage with people in new ways.
"The messages from forest restoration programmes around the world are clear: forests can be replaced to restore the environmental, economic and social functions they originally provided, and this can be done relatively quickly and economically," he added.
"However, the involvement of local people lies at the heart of almost every example of successful forest restoration and sustainable management around the world.
"Without their input and their support, we will fail."