The PD measure of phylogenetic diversity interprets branch lengths cladistically to make inferences about feature diversity. PD calculations extend conventional specieslevel ecological indices to the features level. The "phylogenetic beta diversity" framework developed by microbial ecologists calculates PD-dissimilarities between community localities. Interpretation of these PD-dissimilarities at the feature level explains the framework's success in producing ordinations revealing environmental gradients. An example gradients space using PD-dissimilarities illustrates how evolutionary features form unimodal response patterns to gradients. This features model supports new application of existing species-level methods that are robust to unimodal responses, plus novel applications relating to climate change, commercial products discovery, and community assembly.