Globally, most bare-looking areas in dryland regions are covered by biocrusts which play a crucial role in modifying several soil surface properties and driving key ecosystem processes. These keystone communities face important threats (e.g. climate change) that place their conservation at risk and in turn the sustainability of the ecosystems they inhabit. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop ecosystem management strategies to ensure their protection. However, to provide a solid path towards biocrust conservation, the understanding by stakeholders and governance structures of the ecological functions of these communities, their role as benefit providers, and the pressures threatening their important effects are indispensable. Whereas the ecological scope of biocrust has been widely studied in the last decades, the social dimension of their role remained unexplored. By reviewing literature in biocrusts from a social–ecological approach, here we identified knowledge gaps and new research areas that need to be addressed in order to produce scientific knowledge that better guides dryland conservation policies and actions. This research agenda is a prerequisite to advance biocrust conservation.