Biogeographical regions (geographically distinct assemblages of species and communities) constitute a cornerstone for ecology, biogeography, evolution and conservation biology. Species turnover measures are often used to quantify spatial biodiversity patterns, but algorithms based on similarity can be sensitive to common sampling biases in species distribution data. Here we apply a community detection approach from network theory that incorporates complex, higher-order presence-absence patterns. We demonstrate the performance of the method by applying it to all amphibian species in the world (c. 6,100 species), all vascular plant species of the USA (c. 17,600) and a hypothetical data set containing a zone of biotic transition. In comparison with current methods, our approach tackles the challenges posed by transition zones and succeeds in retrieving a larger number of commonly recognized biogeographical regions. This method can be applied to generate objective, data-derived identification and delimitation of the world's biogeographical regions.