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Terrestrial laser scanners, as efficient tools, have opened a wide range of application fields within a rather short period of time. Beyond interactive measurement in 3D point clouds, techniques for the automatic detection of objects and the determination of geometric parameters form a high priority research issue. The quality of 3D point clouds generated by laser scanners and the automation potential make terrestrial laser scanning also an interesting tool for forest inventory and management. The paper will first review current laser scanner systems from a technological point of view and discuss different scanner technologies and system parameters regarding their suitability for forestry applications. Based on a large number of mixed forest plots, accuracy and handling of the laser scanner were tested. Furthermore a method for the automatic detection of the approximate position of trees will be presented. Co-ordinates of the approximate positions and the number of trees in the plots are a result of the first algorithm. In a second step all located trees will be separated and the breast height diameters, the profiles along the stem and their height will be determined automatically. Finally the paper presents results from several pilot studies on the application of terrestrial laser scanning in forest inventory tasks with the goal of automatically determining inventory-relevant tree parameters. The basic data sets have been provided using one terrestrial laser scanners, which based on phase measurement technology.